Confidential federal tar sands strategy targets Aboriginal and green groups

Feature story - January 26, 2012
As controversy increases over the Harper government’s attacks on environmental groups, Greenpeace Canada today released internal government documents obtained under Access to Information legislation showing that the Harper government has explicitly identified environmental and aboriginal groups as “adversaries” in its strategy to increase tar sands exports.

 “This government established a list of enemies nine months ago and has since launched a public attack on environmental and aboriginal groups that are raising concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the tar sands,” said Keith Stewart, coordinator of Greenpeace Canada’s Climate and Energy campaign. “Rather than dealing the devastating impacts of the tar sands, the Harper government is working with the oil industry to silence their critics.”

The March 2011 “Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” prepared by the federal government to undermine support in the EU for cleaner fuels legislation lists “National and European level Politicians (especially from the ruling and influential parties)” as a primary target.

The strategy document, obtained by the Climate Action Network under Access to Information legislation, identifies the government’s “adversaries” as Canadian NGOs and environmental organizations, Aboriginal groups, competing industries and media in Europe (although the type of media seen as an adversary is redacted).

The list of “allies” includes European industry associations and companies (with Shell and BP singled out elsewhere as “like-minded allies”), as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, federal government departments, Alberta, business associations and unidentified NGOs. Disturbingly, the list of allies also includes the independent federal regulatory tribunal National Energy Board.

“Canadians should be concerned when a supposedly arms-length agency that is supposed to regulate the oil industry, including conducting hearings on the Enbridge’s proposed new tar sands pipeline across British Columbia, is listed as an ‘ally’ in a political strategy to lower environmental standards in other nations,” said Stewart.

Greenpeace also released a copy of minutes from March 2010, obtained under Access to Information legislation, between high-ranking federal officials, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and former PMO official Bruce Carson. These minutes show that it was the oil industry that initially approached the government about crafting a joint strategy for “upping their game” and to “turn up the volume” in promoting the tar sands.

“The latest attacks on environmental groups are part of an orchestrated campaign by the Harper government and the oil industry targeting anyone who dares to question the wisdom of tripling tar sands production,” said Stewart. “Rather than ‘turning up the volume’ in this pro-industry public relations campaign, the Harper government needs to start listening to the legitimate concerns of Canadians on the costs of dirty energy.”