Canadian diplomats lobby to ‘kill’ U.S. green policies

Canadian diplomats in Washington have quietly asked oil-industry players such as Exxon Mobil and BP to help ensure that oil from Alberta continues to flow into the U.S. marketplace, Postmedia News has learned.

In a series of newly released correspondence from Canada’s Washington embassy, the Canadian diplomats describe recommendations from Environment Canada to clean up the oilsands as “simply nutty,” proposing instead to “kill any interpretation” of U.S. energy legislation that would apply to the industry.

Oh, Canada, surely you can’t be seri0us.

In honor of the late Canadian-American actor and comedian Leslie Nielsen, our neighbor up north replies, “I am serious … and don’t call me Shirley.”

To which I reply, well stop calling them oilsands.  The phrase makes it seem like, oh, I don’t know, maybe up through the sand came a bubblin crude, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea, Athabasca euphemism (see CP commenter, Jim Eager, here).

As an aside, it’s hard to believe that the recently departed master of deadpan humor was for decades a leading dramatic actor, whose second movie was Forbidden Planet, the science fiction masterpiece derived from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  But I digress.

Sadly nothing seems forbidden on this planet.  The Calgary News story continues:

“We hope that we can find a solution to ensure that the oil keeps a-flowing,” wrote Jason Tolland, from the Canadian Embassy in an exchange of e-mails with government trade lawyers on Feb. 8, 2008.

The correspondence, released to the Pembina Institute, an environmental research group, that obtained it through access-to-information legislation, comes as the international community gathers in Cancun, Mexico, for the annual United Nations summit on global warming.

The new documents also follow revelations by Postmedia News last week that the Harper government had crafted a multi-department communications strategy with industry stakeholders and the Alberta government to attack foreign environmental policies and promote the oilsands.

Clare Demerse, the associate director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, said the government should remember that it works for Canadians, not the oil companies.

“A responsible government would see clean energy policies outside our borders as an opportunity to do better, not as a threat,” Demerse said.

“Reading through these documents, I’m struck that no one at Foreign Affairs ever acknowledges that cutting greenhouse gas pollution could be a good thing. Instead, the officials dismiss U.S. efforts to clean up the fuel they buy as ‘protectionism.’ ”

The messages from diplomats were sent as the oilsands industry was lobbying against Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which could restrict U.S. government departments and agencies from buying fuel with a high environmental footprint.

“The U.S. government — read administration — is looking to us to provide support for their work to kill any interpretation of this section that would apply to Canadian oilsands,” Tolland wrote. “That is the purpose of this.”

The correspondence reveals that the Canadian diplomats had contacted officials from the American Petroleum Institute as well as from Exxon-Mobil Corp., BP, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Encana Corp., and Marathon Oil Corp. “to point out the potential implication to their imports from Canada.”

According to Article 41 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, visiting diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!  No, seriously, we do — on guard!

12 Responses to Canadian diplomats lobby to ‘kill’ U.S. green policies

  1. Brian D says:

    As is typical for CanWest sources, not every “mirror” has the whole story, even on their online pages. Different editors cut different bits of the original story.

    The “original” as near as I can tell is from the Ottawa Citizen, which has the following extra segments (just replace the paragraph on the Vienna Convention with the following, which includes the paragraph where it should be):

    One e-mail sent by Paul Connors, who at the time was an energy counsellor at the embassy, encouraged an official with Exxon Mobil to get involved in the political debate against the legislation.

    “I would encourage your firm to make its views known to DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) and the Hill (politicians),” wrote Connors to Susan E. Carter from Exxon Mobil on Jan. 22, 2008. “I would be most grateful for your company’s views on the issue.”

    According to Article 41 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, visiting diplomats in a receiving state “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”

    In a separate e-mail, Connors also rejected a recommendation from Helen Ryan, a senior Environment Canada official responsible for oil, gas and alternative energy, that the Canadian government needed to convey, in a letter from the ambassador, the importance of putting “more pressure” on the oilsands industry to invest in technology to clean up their pollution.

    “If intended for the letter, (this point) is simply nutty,” wrote Connors on Feb. 19, 2008.

    When asked if the tactics used by the Canadian diplomats were accepted practices, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade defended the oilsands industry and said that meetings with decision-makers, those who influence them and stakeholders on Canadian priorities are a regular aspect of Canada’s engagement abroad.

    “Canada does not consider oil from oil sands to be an alternative fuel,” wrote Laura Markle in an e-mail.

    “Oil sands production is commercial and, like other oil, is processed in conventional facilities. The government will continue the promotion of a strategic resource that will contribute to energy security for Canada, North America and the world for decades to come.”

    Other CanWest sources leave out different pieces of the story. The Calgary Herald saw fit to remove all traces of Paul Connors, for instance. I can see them doing this for the print version where space is limited (my own paper listed this on page 12, sharing space with an otherwise full-page ad), but for the online version?

  2. Paulm says:

    Scoundrels running the country up here…

    Harper government ends funding to climate research organization
    Ottawa to lease out science vessel for oil exploration

  3. MarkF says:

    see this:

    ” after no debate, no consideration at all, all of a sudden in another move by (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, the Senate voted yesterday to kill the climate change [bill] without debate,” said Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North.

    Bill C-311, which was voted down 43-32 late Tuesday, would have called on the government to establish five-year plans to meet greenhouse gas emission targets by 2050, according to Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell, the author of the bill in the Senate.

    The bill was passed in May by the(elected ) House and went to the (unelected) Senate for final approval.

    There is debate about who actually initiated the Senate vote, with each side saying the other was responsible.

    “Killing Bill C-311 shows a fundamental lack of respect for the many Canadians who care deeply about climate change. They had a right to have this bill debated properly,” Mitchell said in a news release.

    Mitchell later told reporters in Ottawa that it was an unprecedented move to defeat a bill that had been passed by Parliament.”

    Read more:

  4. Hola from Cancun COp 16 – here is my original story about the death of Canada’s climate bil and how 85% of Canadians want action on climate but their government chooses to do otherwise.

    CANADA: A Govt Versus Its People on Climate Change

    FYI my articles (and by other jurnos) from Cancun for the IPS wire will be posted here

  5. ““We hope that we can find a solution to ensure that the oil keeps a-flowing,” wrote Jason Tolland, from the Canadian Embassy in an exchange of e-mails with government trade lawyers on Feb. 8, 2008.”

    I haven’t been back in Canada for a while, but that sounds like Alberta, not Canada as a whole. A super right-wing province in a generally left wing country. They have some of the lowest taxest in the Country. Think Dubai, minus the sex appeal.

  6. Canada Wins 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Fossil Award on first day of COP16 in Cancun for undermining negotiations say NGOs

    Considered the most disruptive and unhelpful country at previous climate meetings will Canada retain its title as worst country at these talks?

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Canada Wins 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Fossil Award

    Canada wins first, second, and third place Fossil of the Day Award in Cancun today. The award is given daily to the country who has done the most to disrupt and undermine negotiations.

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    It’s people like Harper which threaten the survival of the species.

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Canada is becoming a rogue state

    Canada is losing the war. Not a war fought with bombs, guns and tanks in a specific location, but one fought around the world, in various cities, with words, images, and ideologies — a media war. We are becoming a rogue state that every nation and international organization feels it can attack. We are an environmental pariah. States with authoritarian governments and dictatorships, atrocious human rights records and even our historical European allies are castigating and condemning us for our environmental position.