Once upon a
time, Canada was known around the world as a green, rich country of
peacekeepers, hockey, and carefully considered domestic and foreign policy.
Or so our
national mythology says.
But it seems
that under the Harper government, Canada is becoming a global pariah for our
climate crimes. It’s bad enough that the federal government is made up of
climate change deniers and pro-oil
Worse, it is
increasingly clear that the Conservatives are actively trying to kill climate
change legislation in Europe, manipulate domestic pollution statistics required
by the UN, and force a pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico that will
have disastrous consequences for American consumers and the environment.
Late last month,
the Dominion newspaper
revealed documents that expose the Canadian government’s secret campaign in
Europe to kill climate change legislation targeting the oil sands.
government documents, obtained through an Access to Information request, show
that a “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy” was launched in December
the Department of Foreign Affairs, the 11-person “Oil
Sands Team” worked alongside Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada,
the Alberta government and eight foreign missions.
According to the
report, from January to July 2010, Oil Sands Team monitored negative media
coverage, helped Canadian policymakers lobby European Parliamentarians, and
strengthened alliances with major oil companies.
But the team’s
main priority was to stop plans by the European Union to block fossil fuel
imports from Alberta.
Canadian agents lobbied European parliamentarians to remove
clauses targeting Alberta’s oil, even though an EU report recently
found that fuel from the oil sands has a carbon footprint 23 percent larger
than conventional crude.
blowback from such harassment may be more damaging than the potential pay-off,
as European markets import very little oil sands fuel.
But Canadian officials
worry that green regulations could be copied elsewhere.
“Our fear is
that if something happens in the EU and it is spread in other countries—not
only members of the EU—we could have roughly one-third of the world’s
population subscribing to regulation or legislation that mitigates against our
oilsands,” Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Iris
said last November.
Affairs Department document, obtained
by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, suggests hosting an “annual retreat” to
plan a strategy to boost the image of Canada’s oil industry and counter the international
reputation---spawned by environmental groups---that the tar sands produce
The problem, however,
is that the reputation is well deserved. Far from being “ethical
oil”, tar sands crude is the dirtiest oil on Earth.
“They have an
emissions problem in the tar sands, they have a human rights problem and they have
performance problems,” says
Keith Stewart, of Greenpeace Canada.
“They don't have
a public relations problem. And thinking that you can hire a public relations
firm to make your environmental and human rights problems go away is wishful
While Canadian officials were busy trying to kill foreign climate legislation,
the federal government has purposefully lied about how much pollution is being
created by tar sands exploitation.
has uncovered figures that show the Harper government deliberately
excluded data indicating a 20 per cent increase in annual pollution from
Canada’s oil sands industry in 2009.
The data was
kept out of a recent 567-page report on climate change that the government was
required to submit to the United Nations as part of a national inventory on
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Writes Mike De
Souza for Postmedia:
“Critics have suggested the Harper government is
deliberately trying to delay international action to fight climate change,
following revelations, reported last fall by Postmedia News, that it had set up
a partnership with the Alberta government, industry and several federal
departments to fight pollution-reduction policies from other countries that
target the oil sands through lobbying and public relations.”
One thing the
Harper government doesn’t want delayed or interrupted is the proposed Keystone
Directed by TransCanada, “a leader in the
responsible development and reliable operation of North American energy
infrastructure”, the Keystone Pipeline is projected to connect the Albert tar
sands with the Gulf of Mexico.
So far, the
pipeline reaches into heartland USA, down into Illinois, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The proposed Keystone XL extension will take Alberta crude all the way down to
defenders---including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Republicans,
and, of course, the Harper government---claim that the $16-billion project will
deliver lower gasoline prices, improve energy security, and create jobs.
Critics, however, argue that, besides devastating for American farmers and the
local environment, the pipeline will actually increase the cost of fuel for US
consumers, and allow China to benefit from more available, lower-priced crude.
who spent $12.4 billion on fuel in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, could see expenses rise to $15 billion or higher in 2012 or 2013
if the pipeline goes through,” writes Philip Verleger, an internationally
celebrated oil and gas consultant, in a recent US
“At least $500
million of the added expense would come from the Canadian market manipulation… In
addition, millions of Americans will spend 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for
gasoline and diesel fuel as tribute to our ‘friendly’ neighbors to the north.”
Andrew Nikiforuk ably spells out the details of this sordid tale:
Keystone is “a
Canadian pipeline that will disturb two thousand miles of farmland and place
at risk the great Ogallala aquifer, will actually deliver a much more
complicated economic story to the United States than that promised by its
And all to bring what the U.S. National Wildlife Federation
calls “tar sludge” to China, the world's next global empire.” (X)