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Canada Planned “Coordinated” Support Of Oil Industry Before Kyoto Protocol Pullout

In December 2011, Canada withdrew from the UN's Kyoto Protocol, having exceeded target emissions. Notes drafted by Deputy Minister Serge Dupont of Natural Resources Canada days before the announcement reveal that the Harper government was already planning for a "strong and coordinated" push to support the oil industry through advocacy and reforms.

Mike De Souza writes for Postmedia News, that "The notes, included in an email that Deputy Minister Serge Dupont sent to himself on Dec. 8, 2011, provided highlights of the government's strategy to 'advance a strong and coordinated advocacy and communications plan, with early pre-positioning for legislative and other actions.'"

The email notes state that "Developing access to growing Asia Pacific market for Canada's energy resources, and in particular oil sands, is an urgent matter of national interest."

Dupont wrote that the government should "support" the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project, which would transport tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, as a way to cater to the "growing Asia Pacific market."

He made clear that opening a "corridor" to get Canada's oil to the Asia Pacific was "critical to sustain growth, broaden options for producers, and realize best prices." Though emphasizing the Asian market, Dupont also wrote in favour of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline as "a key prospect" to service the US, "our main market."

De Souza writes that the email, "released through access to information legislation, came after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet decided to withdraw from the international legally binding treaty on climate change — a decision that was announced Dec. 12, 2012 by Environment Minister Peter Kent."

Dupont suggested that the government "pre-position" its arguments to "frame dialogue" in "advance of beginning of public hearings on Gateway, January 10, 2012." This suggestion was followed, De Souza observes, by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver releasing a letter "prior to the start of the hearings — that accused environmental groups of supporting a 'radical agenda' to 'hijack' Canada's regulatory system with funding from foreign special interests."

Oliver's letter heralded the start of what Dupont's email described as "Proactive policy and program measures [to] support Northern Gateway and future pipelines." De Souza describes the wide ranging changes to Canada's environmental laws, "introduced in about 400 pages of legislation, that were adopted with limited debate in Parliament a few months later."

The changes included the cancellation of "about 3,000 environmental reviews of new projects including hundreds involving pipelines and fossil fuels" and "a federal budget that cut millions of dollars of funding for scientific research examining environmental impacts of industrial activity on air, water and wildlife."

The British Columbia government has announced its opposition to the Northern Gateway proposal, and the US government has yet to make a decision on Keystone XL. But De Souza writes that "other potential proposals are emerging for pipelines linking Alberta's oilsands industry to markets and refineries in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States."

As De Souza mentions, the Harper government has recently spent millions of dollars on advertising Canada's natural resources and promoting its 'green' image as a "world environmental leader," including a new website.

Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Jacinthe Perras said Dupont's notes were "consistent with creating a system that puts in place timely, efficient, and effective project reviews, while strengthening environmental protection, and enhancing consultations with Aboriginal Peoples," De Souza reports.

Oliver's office has not commented yet on how Dupont's strategy informed the government's support of the oil industry and pipelines, while the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers "declined to comment about its assessment of the federal government's strategy in the context of Dupont's notes."

Image Credit: Kris Krug / Flickr

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