Canadian Tories Play Down Accusation Of ‘Con Job’ On Oilsands

The Harper government played down opposition accusations Monday that it was running a “con job” to lobby against climate change policies abroad affecting the oilsands industry. Instead, the government said it is trying to “work with industry.” “The stupidest thing you can do is to run against an industry that is providing employment for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, not just in Alberta, but right across the country,” said Environment Minister John Baird in the House of Commons in response to a question from Liberal MP Joyce Murray. Baird said his comments were actually repeating the position of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on the oilsands. “The member (Murray) should listen to the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada,” Baird said. The government lobbying efforts were revealed by Postmedia News following the release of federal documents obtained through an Access to Information request by Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of environmental, labour and faith-based groups. The documents uncovered a multi-department government communications strategy in partnership with Alberta and the oil and gas industry to fight global warming policies in jurisdictions such as the U.S. “We’re able to work with the provinces, we’re able to work with industry, and (opposition MPs) just can’t seem to understand that we’re working for the future,” said David Anderson, parliamentary secretary to Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis, in response to a question from Bloc Quebecois environment critic Bernard Bigras. “We’re developing future policies in terms of environmental issues, in terms of dealing with natural resources, and at every turn they oppose each of those steps.” But Murray, the MP for Vancouver Quadra and a former B.C. environment minister, suggested the policies were being directed by the industry. “Today, leaked documents confirm the government’s sad climate change con job,” Murray said. “Its objective is to undermine action on climate change at home and abroad. Its strategy is for three government departments to partner with the oilsands industry. Its action is to lobby for accepting excessive oilsands emissions while doing nothing to reduce them.” Baird said the government was supporting the Copenhagen accord and also “working very closely with Barack Obama’s administration.” But the government declined to address questions Monday about whether it had also had a similar communications strategy to promote hydroelectricity exports in U.S. states that are now relying on coal-fired plants to generate energy instead of taking exports from provinces such as Quebec to reduce pollution and support Canada’s clean energy sector. Paul Duchesne, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Department said that Paradis “regularly underscores the value and importance of Canada’s natural resources, including renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity,” in his meetings and discussions with international counterparts. “Furthermore, through the Canada-U.S. Clean Energy Dialogue we are engaging in outreach as part of the working group to build a more efficient electricity grid based onclean and renewable generation,” Duchesne added. Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, said it was ironic that the government often says it must align climate policies with the U.S. at the same time that it is lobbying to weaken those policies. His organization also launched a new tip line on Monday to encourage federal bureaucrats to denounce hidden government lobbying efforts or strategies to weaken clean energy policies that create jobs and reduce pollution. “It’s no secret that many within the public service are unhappy with having their proposals on how to achieve the government’s own stated goals of reducing greenhouse gases ignored, while having to help implement policies and foreign lobbying campaigns that will guarantee that Canada becomes an even larger contributor to the climate change problem,” said Stewart in a conference call with reporters. “We’re asking civil servants to let us know what’s going on behind the scenes, what’s being hidden that should rightfully be public knowledge, and what we should be pursuing under Access to Information legislation, so we can make sure the Canadian public knows what their government is doing in their name.” ((22 NOV 2010))























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