SHAWN BELL Reporter
Slave River Journal
Critics claim the Alberta government is increasingly using its political clout to influence federal positions on the oilsands in light of an internal government memo leaked to media last week.
In the memo, dated October 2010, then-Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner encouraged all Canadian political envoys to positively promote Canada’s oilsands to “temper negative coverage” of the industry.
Renner was in London, England, hosting round-table discussions with investors, government envoys and media representatives at the time.
“In our view there is a strong need for consistent Government of Canada-Government of Alberta messaging on this file (the oilsands),” the memo states. “The opponents of the oilsands will find ways to exploit any lack of coherence and coordination, undermining common objectives shared by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta on this issue.”
The memo also says that Renner was “comfortable” with the approach that Alberta would create messaging on oilsands and Canadian missions would deliver it.
That led critics to question which jurisdiction is calling the shots when it comes to Canada’s foreign policies.
Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence, the organization that released the memo, said it appears as if Alberta is setting the tone on Canadian oilsands messaging to the world.
“I hope the government of Alberta is not writing Canada’s foreign policy,” McEachern said. “I don’t believe that one province can represent our foreign position on issues, particularly when that province has been so entrenched in support of an industry.”
Renner’s roundtable meetings in England addressed a range of investors, including hedge funds, pension funds and a collective of socially-conscious investors.
Questions from the investors ranged from land and water pollution, to indigenous health issues, to the impact of foreign ownership on the environmental effects of the industry. The memo states that questioners repeatedly returned to questions on climate change.
Renner, who was replaced in Alberta Environment by Dianna McQueen during the recent cabinet shuffle, promoted Alberta’s investment in carbon capture and storage during the meetings, as well as regulations and monitoring he said provided the government with a comprehensive picture of the effects of industry.
He also defended Alberta’s carbon price, which sets the cost of emissions at $15/tonne, saying the fee program has already raised $187 million that will be put into research and development.
When asked about the federal-provincial relationship when it comes to carbon emissions regulations, Renner said it would be “ideal to have one national objective and flexibility of tools in order for provinces to be able to comply with it.”
Currently, only provincial legislation on carbon emissions exists in Canada.
Alberta setting tone for federal oilsands policy
SHAWN BELL Reporter