I’ve spoken with a lot of politicians over the years, but I’ve never had one run away from me before. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, as it’s no secret that our federal Minister of Natural Resources doesn’t have a lot of time for environmentalists. Even if you haven’t read his now-famous open letter, a quick scan of the lobbyist registry shows that Joe Oliver has met 32 times with oil and gas lobbyists since becoming Minister and 0 times with environmental groups.
Nevertheless, I bought a ticket to his speech at Toronto’s Economic Club, where he once again denounced environmental groups as “radicals” opposed to all forms of economic activity. Once he was done I went up and (politely) asked him if I might have a moment of his time to talk about our proposal for greening the economy. A reporter tweeted a description of what happened next as “Greenpeace tried to accost Joe Oliver on pipeline with their policy book. Oliver is a fast walker. Gp still has their book.”
He may have fled to avoid talking about those embarrassing internal documents that Greenpeace had revealed the day before on the federal government’s “oil sands advocacy strategy” that his Ministry was undertaking in partnership with the oil industry (a point we hammered home with a mock wedding we’d pulled together for him and his oil companies allies outside the hotel where he was speaking).
As detailed in stories by the CBC, Reuters, CP, the Globe and Mail, APTN, PostMedia, La Presse and Le Devoir, the strategy listed the government’s allies in their effort to undermine climate legislation in other countries as oil companies and business associations. The list of allies also included (surprisingly) the National Energy Board, which is supposed to be an independent regulator of the oil industry, and which is currently reviewing the Enbridge’s proposed new tar sands pipeline to the northern BC coast. Their “adversaries” included environmental and aboriginal groups, as well as some media.
All in all, a rather revealing insight into how this government thinks: you are either with them or against them, and the way to deal with opposition is not to address the substance of their concerns but rather to launch a joint public relations campaign with the oil industry to (in their words) “turn up the volume” and silence those who have other views.
It is rather awkward to try to reconcile these blunt statements with the government’s talking points, but if you are going to throw the whole weight of the federal government you do have to spell it all out on paper.
And while I didn’t get to speak with him, I had mentioned the list of meetings from the lobbyist registry to reporter who asked him about it. He said that no environmental group had ever asked to meet with him – a claim that was swiftly disproved.
I’ve put in a meeting request because I really would like to talk to him about our alternative visions for Canada’s energy future – where we become leaders in green energy rather than dirty oil.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Take action: Send a letter to Joe Oliver stating your opposition to the Enbridge pipeline.