This week saw the first rounds of what will likely be one of the most bitter, drawn-out political fights in recent memory.
More than 4,300 people are expected to contribute to the public hearings to decide the future of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would link Alberta's tarsands to the B.C. port of Kitimat.
This is a whole different weight class than the jobs-versusowls forestry brawls of the 1990s.
If built, the Northern Gateway will have vast economic and environmental implications that extend far beyond Canada's borders.
So it was small-minded of federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to complain that some of the environmental groups registered to speak draw some of their funding from foreign countries. Perhaps Oliver isn't aware that the proposed pipeline will serve oil companies from several different foreign nations.
Inviting wealthy foreign resource extractors to show up with their capital while trying to discredit far less wealthy foreign environmentalists is a very crude attempt to rig the outcome of the public consultation.
But that's no surprise from a government that increasingly sees democratic processes as more nuisance than necessity. We require public hearings, by law, in order to put all the facts on the table before such an important decision is made.
But those who don't want the pipeline are, in Oliver's words, "a group of people who don't take into account the facts but are driven by an ideological imperative."
It's a shame he didn't wait to hear the facts himself. Oliver might have been talking about his own government.