On the eve of President Obama’s first foreign visit to Canada, a group of over 50 prominent Canadians have signed an open letter telling Obama that the tar sands don’t fit in the new energy economy.
“In your discussions with the Canadian government, we encourage you to raise concerns over the environmental and social problems associated with tar sands production and make no exemption for the tar sands in any binational agreement addressing climate change” says the open letter.
Actress Neve Campbell, authors Ann-Marie MacDonald and Farley Mowat, musicians Anton Kuerti and Jim Creeggan of the Barenaked Ladies, athletes Adam Kreek (Olympic Gold Medalist) and Andrew Ference (Boston Bruins defenceman), and political leaders Jack Layton of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party, are just a few of the many prominent Canadians to sign the letter.
It is unclear if Mr. Ference’s views on Alberta’s resource sector will change now that Oiler ticket holders — many who work in oil and gas — will be paying his salary.
Or will Ference insist he plays for the Edmonton Tarsanders?
The trendy thing to do these days for trendy companies that sell trendy products is to show their trendy customers that these companies care about more than just their bottom line, they also care about how showing that they care can affect the same.
Take climate change. An issue that is all the rage (at least is was before the global economic downturn) among consumers who have been inundated with a large and wasteful awareness campaign about it. Yes, we’ve all learned about the perils of out-of-control consumption, have been directed to consume more, but to consume products that are allegedly less harmful to humanity. So how are multinational corporations serving humanity these days?
Take the Gap, Timberland and Levi’s.
These three companies are the latest to boycott the Alberta “tarsands” because of the CO2 emissions that come from the extraction process. Here’s CP’s writeup:
Another four major U.S. companies are joining the move to either avoid or completely boycott fuel produced from Alberta’s oilsands.
The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss have all told their transportation contractors that they will either give preference to those who avoid the oilsands or have asked them what they’re doing to eliminate those fuels.
The move adds to growing international economic pressure on the oilsands industry and the Alberta government to reduce its environmental impact.
Indeed, the Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss are shifting away from the Alberta oilsands. But is it a focus on the elimination of oil? No, we can see that the order put out has been to only avoid oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects.
In a market system, when you pull one source you must supplant with another. And indeed, that’s what’s happened here. If these companies don’t get their oil from Alberta, the supply will be increased from other sources, namely countries that breed terror and radicalized citizens that wish to see people in Western countries suffer.
It is unclear whether the Gap, Timberland and Levis have told their storesin RiyadhSaudi Arabia to boycott Alberta’s oilsands oil, but this poses an important question: does the socially conscious Saudi shopper care enough about how those Albertan oil tycoons are murdering the Earth? And if so, when will we see a boycott?
Today I received a list of upcoming books from Random House Canada for their fall season. The list is sent out to potential reviewers to provide publicity for the upcoming titles.
Here are a few that you might be interested in,
by George W. Bush (11/9/2010) George W. Bush’s presidency in his own words. From rallying a nation after 9/11 to bringing it’s troops across the Tigris river in Baghdad. From tax cuts that stimulated the economy (and debate) to the continued growth of government and the banking sector bailout, this presidential account is sure to cause discussion.
by Ezra Levant (8/17/2010). Ezra will do a multi-city tour to promote this book which makes a case for the Alberta oil sands against environmentalists who turn a blind eye to oil extraction in places such as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan where from it’s wars and genocide, Ezra calculates that each barrel of Sudanese oil has a tablespoon worth of blood spilled for its production. While the world inevitably continues to use cheap energy from oil, diminishing Canada’s production share only supports unethical alternatives.
by Tarek Fatah (10/19/2010) Canada’s most famous ‘moderate Muslim’ voice speaks out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world held strongly among some of his co-religionists.
by Bob Rae (10/26/2010). I’m going to read this book so I can figure out what the Liberal Party may be proposing in their platform on the foreign policy front (under Ignatieff or Rae as leader). We wonder if the book will rehash many of the guiding nuanced soft-power principles of the DFAIT establishment or if Rae (like Ignatieff used to) now believes in certain cold hard facts about the modern world and the actors now bent on destabilizing it.
I bumped into Jim Prentice a few weeks ago at the Manning Centre Networking Conference. I dusted off the part of my brain that stores info on current environmental issues and pulled out my trusty cam for an on-the-spot interview.
The questions in the interview are relevant to recent news about the American Senatorial stalling on instituting a cap-and-trade system in the US. Canadian critics argue that Canada should “set an example” moving forward on an international trading market while some economic realists disagree.
In the interim, the Minister of the Environment plans on moving to regulate and harmonize emissions standards.
Liveblogging the opening panel of the Manning Centre Alberta Future conference.
Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party
Kyle Fawcett, PC Party of Alberta MLA Calgary North-Hill
Q: technological factors in Alberta’s future
Smith: we need to figure out what our policy on CO2 is. We don’t have a coherant policy. Smith explains that science of climate change is still under debate. Smith says rest of Canada doesn’t undrstand the value of oil sands for economy and energy security. Oil sands reputation repair needs to be job #1 according to the WAP leader. Smith asks audience to consider jobs created by oilsands development. “We should be celebrating the success of the oilsands”. Smith suggests we should also be investigating green energy alternatives. New producers and energy types are jockeying for position in the new electricity grid. Smith says there is no conflict with being a hydrocarbon producer and a green energy leader.
Q: if you could write the next chapter of Alberta’s future. What would it be?
Smith: we will find maturity as a province. We assert rightful jurisdiction in confederation. Now we are refered to as part of the west or as prairie province. We must be recognized as a grown up province. Perhaps we should be looking for our own provincial pension plan. We should have our own police force. We should take control over our own immigration like Quebec. We need to lead health care reform. Quebec leads it now, Alberta leads it now. WAP is not another “west want in” movement. WAP is about restoring Alberta’s leadership in Canada.
Q: what are the most important things we need to do today for Alberta’s future
Smith: we need a natural gas strategy. Change consumer behaviour. Gas prices are low, this gives us opportunity to develop this sector vs. coal. Our job in government is to establish free market to encourage entrepreneurship. We need most competitive tax structure in Canada and even North America. On democratic reform, the current government intimidates people that meet with me. Premier’s office seems to be writing down names of people getting involved with WAP. This reflects an erosion of our democracy.
Q: Alberta’s role on the national stage. Re: fed govt’s deficit, how should we deal with the feds?
Fawcett: we’re not immune to global economic trends. When the PM meets with other heads of state he must fulfill our commitments. I know that our fed ministers are treating everyone fairly including Albertans.
Smith: 65% of Alberta’s self-identify as right of centre. Best way we can influence federal decisions is to be a good role model. Lately, our provincial government has not been one. Why are we issueing Alberta bonds and going back in debt. We must balance our budget and get our spending in control first before addressing the federal government.
Fawcett: we are not running an operational deficit. We are spending money from when times were good. We don’t need to cut and slash but run on longterm wise fiscal management.
Smith: Alberta bring in 32 billion but spending 36 billion. The amount of official deficit is understated by governement.
Q: how do we increase voter turnout?
Smith: All parties, not just two right-of-centre parties will have input. Social media also allows us to connect directly with voters. This will help improve the overall dialogue and this will cause more people to turn out.
Fawcett: we haven’t even scratched the surface with techology. (Fawcett echoes Smith’s comments on social media). But not everyone will follow online. There’s still a role for traditional means: mail and townhalls. Had a senior’s forum two weeks ago and only 3 people came out. Social media cannot address all needs. We must still reach out using other means.
Manning: technology is part of getting voters to the polls but it’s not the only way. If yoy look at past visions it was core values that connected with people. You must ask, what are the core valuies that fill out your policy prescriptions. Not just a technological fix, but core values must inform policy to get more people out to the polls.
Smith: people come to Alberta because of leadership in policy. Alberta Advantage was about economic growth, best delivery of services.
Q: what kind of story do you find most resonates with Albertans
Smith: my grandfather came from the Ukraine. I was surprised to see that a story of my hard working immigrant grandfather resonated more in urban areas than rural. Alberta is a place where immigrants can realize their entrepreneurial dream. We need a governement that believes in individuals to govern themselves.
Fawcett: I hear stories of people born and raised in Alberta. I hear that they’re very proud to have achieved success in the province. To persue your own vision and dreams without govt standing in the way and then helpimg your own individuals. We must have equality of opportunity for Albertans to achieve their own vision, and for those that can’t we need to give them a hand up. Story is about achieving individual success and taking that to help your community.
Smith: I think it used to be that way. Now people are looking elsewhere. People aren’t looking to PC Party to respect property rights and democracy. This is why other parties are seeing new interest from Albertans.
Fawcett: we can’t govern off of public opinion polls. We’ve earned an outstanding mandate from the people. How can it be said that we’ve lost the support of Albertans?
Q: what would you say to someone that hasn’t wanted to get involved with either of your parties?
Fawcett: if you’re upset, get involved. Find your passion and get involved where you can make the best change.
Smith: in leadership race, I was surprised by new people who were never involved in politics, getting involved. We kept selling memberships after leadership race was over. This doesn’t usually happen. People are now seeing that we can do better. If not to replace government but to elect an effective opposition to ask uncomfortable questions to the government.
Q: oilsands. How do we improve alberta’s position ethically, economically, internationally with respect to the oilsands?
Smith: some Canadians feel that Canada’s reputation is damaged and that oilsands blight is not their fault. Ottawa wants to make oilsands reputation management a national priority. This is a mistake. Oilsands are a national jewel. Oilsands are not well understood by many Canadians. Immense amount of tech being developed to improve efficiency of oil extraction from oilsands. Why aren’t we talking about this? We should be talking about how we’re improve environmental sustainability of oilsands.
Fawcett: we hope Danielle and her caucus will support the premier when he sells the oilsands internationally. Buisiness also has a role in getting the story out. I hope Danielle is not advocating for cuts in the ministry of the environment. We can talk about natual gas all we want but we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket. Albertans should not be ashamed for taking the lead on economic development and environmental sustainability of oilsands. Technological innovation may well take us to bring our emissions on par with other extraction methods.
Smith: Carbon capture and storage will be a massive sinkhole for government spending. We don’t seem talk about reductions in CO2, we only talk about reducing rate of growth. Simple measures will bring us the furthest: consumer action on home reno, auto efficiency choices.
Q: what do we do about selling our “dirty oil” as some in the US put it?
Smith: one solution on talking about emissions with US may come from honest discussion about US decommissioning coal plants.
Q: what makes an Albertan? What makes us the same and what makes us different?
Smith: “every fiscal issue has a social dimension.” Albertans more disposed to looking to community issues to solve public policy problem. Some think that paying taxes will solve problems. We’re seeing that paying taxes do not provide services. Education and health are suffering because more people are looking to government to solve their problems.
Fawcett: agree with Danielle that solutions come from communities but definition of community has changed. Consider urban condo dweller. Is there community there as we have traditionally defined it?
Smith: we must consider outputs vs outcomes. Government focuses on outputs. We need to focus on outcomes. Found agreement with NDP activist on community involvement. Community connections are vital. Community doesn’t break down in urban environment, it is actually more important. Social media allows us to connect but we must still meet each other eye to eye.
Q: what is the role of society? What is the role of government? What does the “good life” mean?
Fawcett: the society that we want is the one that strikes the right balance. Where would we be without government involvement in the oilsands? Not that we should encourage more government encroachment, but we need to be more strategic. We need to be having more conversations like we’re having here this weekend? Where do we want Alberta to be in 20 years? We need find the vision and implementation strategy moving forward. This comes from individuals and collective society.
Smith: we must acknowledge that we’re a young province. We have every right to look at our next century as optimistically as we saw the last. You can avoid making public policy missteps by looking to the governments to increase liberty and freedom. Libertarians and social conservatives believe that governement has gotten to big for its own good. Stong families and communities are foundation of society. We cannot look to government to solve each problem. Must invest in infrastructure to increase economic growth. Our first objectives as MLAs is to “do no harm”
Today, the NDP got down to business and discussed policy, policy and more policy. In fact, the difference with Liberal policy conventions and NDP policy conventions, is that at NDP policy conventions, policy is discussed.
I started following the day with interest as delegates debated building an oil pipeline from Alberta to Eastern Canada. The advantages — according to the delegates — would be that such a move would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs and it would maintain sovereignty over Canadian energy distribution as distribution channels now run through the US. The clear disadvantage? That would be a nod to the reality that Canadians consume oil and export oil from the oil sands — a sticky point to a party that ran on a moratorium on future oil sands development in the previous election. In the face of recognizing economic realities and lofty dreams, the party faithful sided with the latter firmly saying “no” to our own oil production and transport.
From there, delegates went onto women in “peace-building” (is this the same as Conservative “peacemaking” — or closer to Liberal “peacekeeping”?) The resolution carried as no controversy could be found in a feel good resolution for everyone. Then foreign aid came up and Libby Davies took the microphone to describe the conditions of the people in the Gaza strip after she had returned from… the West Bank. No mention of Israel, though one delegate found the Canada-Israel Committee’s presence at the conference “interesting”. There was some other drama as some delegates debated the highly generalized language of the foreign aid resolution which described aid to “countries”. One delegate moved to discuss aid on a case-by-case bilateral basis. There were also some procedural debates. One French-language resolution was discussed which may well have been lifted by the Bloc Quebecois mandating the use of the French-language by all Quebeckers. Further, a policy resolution on EI firmed up the party’s position closer to the 360 hour mark similarly being proposed by the Liberals.
Leo Gerard was one of the showcase speakers of the day. The president of the United Steelworkers certainly gave the best crowd-pleasing speech of the day but appealed to the worst elements of partisanship as he, at different times, called both Harper and Ignatieff “the prince of darkness” and called ideological opponents in the US healthcare debate “redneck jerkoffs”. Frankly, if the NDP is to ever be taken seriously, this sort of language is unacceptable from a showcase speaker during the convention of a mainstream political party. In fact, to emphasize the fact that the NDP is still not taken seriously, there will be little to no critical coverage of this language in the MSM tomorrow, as there would have been screaming headlines if this had occurred at a Conservative or Liberal convention.
Next, the results of the party executive elections were announced. Peggy Nash replaces Anne McGrath as president of the NDP while Rebecca Blaikie was elected treasurer. A motion was made to destroy recycle the ballots. Nash served as an MP for the NDP in the 39th parliament and then most recently as an adviser to the CAW. Blaikie is daughter of the former NDP MP and Dean of the House of Commons Bill Blaikie.
Next, Marshall Ganz — a Harvard lecturer and labour organizer — spoke to the crowd about his experience as a community organizer and as a campaign organizer for the Obama campaign. Ganz gave the most informative speech of day for assembled delegates. Though Ganz spoke about the “politics of hope”, the NDP would be better served going negative against Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader has left them a lot of room to maneuver on the centre-left. To stake out their place there, the NDP will have to define Ignatieff more aggressively than recent Conservative efforts did with the now famous Just Visiting ads. Particularly notable moments of culture shock were apparent from Obama speakers in their use of biblical parables to illustrate “teachable moments” at this convention. The party of prairie preacher Tommy Douglas has taken a long road eschewing social justice drawn from religious inclination to one taken from a more atheistic worldview and Obama campaigners seemed to be out-of-place making religious analogies to a largely secular party.
After Ganz, the party went back to policy debate and discussed a state-focused nuclear disarmament resolution in a “hey, remember the 80s/something happened on 9/11?” moment. As conflict has moved from cold-war area politics to one with asymmetrical non-state actors post 9/11, the NDP still seems bent on having the same “world without (US) nukes” policy discussion instead of addressing the real and present danger of global terrorism. Another striking moment came during the international policy discussion portion when NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) suggested that Tamil actions in blocking traffic in Ottawa and occupying a highway in Toronto were legitimate methods for Tamils to get the attention of the Canadian government.
The keynote of the day was Betsy Myers, the COO for the Obama campaign. According to her agency website, Myers banks between $15-20k per speaking arrangement. Myers talk was relatively light and uninspiring for delegates, but involved a Q&A session hosted by NDP national campaign manager Brian Topp. During Myers speech to party faithful, union delegates were notably absent from the speech. While union organizers make up an important part of the NDP field operation, they may have been upset by the party brass importing some expensive American talent to tell delegates about the shiniest new campaign techniques.
Union delegates absent from Myers speech and Q&A
After the Myers segment, Dippers poured out to hospitality events including a Keith’s brewery tour hosted by the NDP Nova Scotia Provincial caucus, that despite just forming government in that province, only managed to bring out five MLAs to the reception. Another big event of the evening was the Charlie Angus-sponsored Canadian Private Copying Collective gathering at the Delta. Of the federal caucus, only Angus and Bruce Hyer were present (a reader writes to inform that Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Malcom Allen, Glen Thibault, Brian Masse, John Rafferty, Andrea Horwath, Ken Neuman, Leo Gerrard, and Andrew Cash also showed up during the event). They were joined by Canadian artists Eva Avila of Idol fame, Chris Cummings, Teresa Ennis, and Marie Denise Pelletier. The other free event was the NDP “tweetup” on Argyle street attended by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Megan Leslie and Brian Masse. The VIPs, not at the brewery tour, copyright party or tweetup, must have been gathered at the Delta for a closed-door $300 “winner’s circle” meet-and-greet with Betsy Myers where MP Olivia Chow reported that Myers said that the NDP “[gives] voice to the voiceless”. Indeed.
Despite an initial setback after the party banned one of their leading activists, the eNDProhibition movement is making its voice heard at the NDP convention and is reportedly being more shrewd than the members of the Socialist caucus who are bluntly and clumsily pushing to nationalize everything. Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate who was fired during the last campaign for being pro-drug, was similarly barred from attending the NDP convention. The advocates for marijuana are looking for any small victory for their cause such as having the resolution on psychoactive substances debated on the floor. The eNDProhibition activists were seen lobbying GLBT delegates making the argument that they too once faced discrimination within their own party (Tommy Douglas’ views on homosexuality).
Some eNDProhibition buttons seen at the convention
Tomorrow will be an interesting day as the convention closes and the NDP debates their convention-headlining moment: the possible rebranding of the party. Observers will note a blue colour has washed over the NDP website and former party communications guru Ian Capstick noted to me that orange is simply terrible on camera. During the keynote, Myers ปืนเกมยิงปลาspoke against a blue backdrop complete with “Jack Layton” in large letters overtop a barely visible “NDP-NPD” sitting next to large Obama logo. The party of Layton seems dedicated to embracing the success of the new American president who is for everything from the death penalty, to nukes, to civil unions over same-sex marriage, to two-tier healthcare, to increased troop presence in Afghanistan, to free trade with Colombia, to keeping Omar Khadr locked up. Layton may be embracing the blue colour in a nod to the US Democrats who turned red states into blue states for Obama in the 2008 election. The NDP slogan “it can be done” is somewhat similar to “yes we can” but seems to be more “convincing a disbeliever” in tone rather than a collective and affirmative call to action.
If Marshall Ganz could have given one lesson to delegates it would have been that without a personal story from each and every person about why they believe in your candidate enough to work on your team, the slickest political package and most sophisticated social media operation will never win a campaign. You can fly in the top-paid political talent, but without a strong field team you’ll be spending more time convincing people that “it can be done” rather than everyone believing that “yes, we can”. This weekend, the NDP may yet illustrate that it will fail at its own expensive imported lesson.
UDPATE: The NDP will not change its name. But not for a lack of trying. The delegates were only given an hour to debate an omnibus resolution on party constitution matters. No time was left to discuss the name change. As James Moore says, “everything old is new again”.
Last week, I was watching Canada AM and would have spit out my coffee if I had been drinking some at the time.
I had just seen the program’s Seamus O’Regan interview Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion about climate change, the oil sands, the terror threat against the oil sands and then finally a potential election. It was a standard four minute interview which ended with some rhetoric from Stephane Dion, saying that Harper wants to make the country right-wing, Republican, far right, evil, etc… par for the course and standard fare for Dion. The Liberals have recently been pushing that very message in every QP breath they take.
At the top of the hour, they replayed a clip of the Dion interview which described the Liberals as a moderate alternative to Harper’s “far right” party. Again, inaccurate, but expected. Immediately following this clip, the anchor goes to the next news story to describe “far right” nutjob Ernst Zundel being convicted in Germany. It’s almost as if Dion teed up the ball and CTV drove it 350 yards.
Take a look (Youtube video):
In CTV’s defense, the same “far right” descriptor was used to describe Zundel in the previous top-of-the-hour news update (before Dion had given his interview – Dion went live at 7:40am EST). However, who cuts a clip of Dion describing Harper as “far right” and then gives the anchor text on Zundel describing the Holocaust denier as “far right”?
Also, what’s with the kid gloves Seamus? If Dion uses language to describe Canadian conservatives that CTV reserves for Holocaust denial, aren’t you supposed to call him on that? The proper response would have been “now wait one second there, Mr. Dion…”
For the record, this is editing on live television. I don’t think that there was any malice intended on the part of CTV… the result was just unfortunate. If this had been a pre-packaged broadcast, I’d be quite upset. With that said, I do believe that lessons above (and in the video) regarding language and kid gloves should be considered by CTV.
UPDATE: Should we instead be disappointed with Dion for twisting the misnomer (on all fronts) for his own agenda? Haven’t we heard Dion describe Harper as a ‘far right climate change denier‘?
This week was the first week back after a break for Canada’s New Government. Climate change was expected to lead the agenda as it seems to be the sole issue on which the Liberals care to define themselves. Conservatives rose to power promising to clean up government after the most significant corruption scandal in Canadian history. The Liberals think that they’ll rise to power cleaning up… Carbon dioxide and water vapour? Canadians have perceived Harper delivering on the Federal Accountability Act while Canadians believe that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will deliver on climate change.
In fact, I believe that this underlines a key weakness in Liberal messaging. While polling has shown that the environment is a top priority for Canadians, they’re not about to throw out the government on the issue when they actually go to the polls. If heathcare — an issue which actually has a direct effect on the life and death of Canadians — can be taken off the ballot of the electorate by a couple of weeks of warm weather in Toronto, it would seem that there aren’t any pressing issues that are really on the minds of Canadians. “Environment? Sure that sounds like something I should care about”
Unless a hurricane hits Toronto killing scores of people, the electorate is not about to uproot a government to install the old guard led by a sponsorship-era cabinet minister with no real record on the only issue on which he has chosen to define himself.
That’s why this week’s messaging was so puzzling. At the beginning of this week, a protester braved the freezing temperatures of downtown Ottawa to stretch out to play the part of a sunbathing polar bear. One wonders if the protester only had the suit rented for that day.
Liberals were sporting green ribbons in the House this week,
presumably to show that they care about the environment. Since Dion’s election as Liberal leader, the Liberal website has also incorporated a splash of green. Apparently this is to make it known that our Liberal friends care about the environment so long as the vehicle for their environmentalism is the Kyoto protocol. According to the popular narrative these days, one does not believe in saving the environment if one does not believe in a global, bureaucratic, statist wealth transfer agreement. In fact, one also does not believe in the science of climate change if one does not also believe in such a one world collectivist approach to saving the Earth from certain doom (according to our latest amended models). In fact, while Michael Ignatieff was lecturing the government to meet global Kyoto targets, the green ribbon-clad Ignatieff had his own words thrown back at him when environment minister John Baird quoted Ignatieff questioning Kyoto by saying “nobody knows what Kyoto is or what it commits us to”.
Thursday afternoon, Mark Holland, part of the new Liberal rat pack, had a meltdown (actually he didn’t flinch) when he said on Charles Adlers’ show that a Liberal government would ปืนเกมยิงปลาcontrol oil sands development in Alberta. Sacrificing the Canadian economy just because green has become fashionable will have Canadians thinking twice about the Liberal party. (The Liberal Party of Canada is already dead to Albertans).
Earlier on Thursday, Dion had a poor question period performance as he bizarrely stated that Harper was “paralyzing the world” when it came to Kyoto. Somebody ought to proofread Dion’s notes before QP, but I imagine this would be a difficult talk as I hear that Dion is very top-down in his approach and has no time for criticism from his staff.
All in all, a bit of a bizarre week for the Liberals on their climate communications. We heard some whispers about an old Harper letter calling Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but the Liberals didn’t seem to get any mileage on it.
Why would the Liberals spend this frigid week lecturing the Conservatives on the global warming file (one on which they themselves have a dismal record). Is there really nothing else to talk about? Did the Liberals really spend the week telling Canadians “We got nothing”?
BONUS BAD MESSAGING: Bill Graham demanded Conservative action on Guantanamo Bay, a bizarre request given that Graham was foreign affairs minister in the years after 9/11.
This letter’s been floating around among a few reporters. I received the following text in my email’s inbox this morning.
Dear Mr Gilbert,
To be sure, freedom of the press is one of the foundations of our democratic life and the vitality of public debate in Canadian democracy. In that respect, we are fortunate in Canada to live in a political and media environment characterized by a lack of political interference that might undermine the credibility and impartiality of our media institutions, including public broadcasters.
I must admit that I was perplexed by Mr Guy Gendron’s report on the program ” Zone Libre Enquête” on Friday, January 19, 2007, which covered the oil sands industry in Alberta. Indeed, at times, Radio-Canada indulged in unacceptable innuendos, the most striking of which were as follows:
“…the day after the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Canada, U.S. oil industry leaders met in this hotel in Houston, Texas, together with promoters of major oil sands projects in Alberta.”
“Talks, sometimes secret deals, as discovered by our colleague from ‘Zone Libre Enquête,’ Guy Gendron. “
“The Radio-Canada program ‘Zone Libre Enquête’ reveals that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President George Bush cut a secret deal last year .”
“So far, the Conservative government, as you know, has withdrawn… Canada is the only country to have withdrawn from Kyoto among the 35 signatories.”
Finally, I would draw your attention to the following statement:
“The oil-sands have a road map to a production level of 5 million barrels a day,” A “Current projections are more like 2-to-3 million over the next ten years.”
That quotation dates from September 8, 2004, and was made by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources under the former Liberal government.
By beginning with the election of a Conservative government, the report neglected to highlight the decisions by the former government.
The “secret” report, “Oil Sands Experts Group Workshop Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America Houston, Texas January 24-25, 2006 Oil Sands Workshop SPP Report,” which is also available at http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/oilgas/publications/oilgas_generalpubs/oilsands_spp_report.pdf , says that:
“President Bush, Prime Minister Martin and President Fox officially announced the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North American (SPP) agreement in March 2005. The energy activities of the SPP encompass a trilateral effort among Mexico, the United States and Canada, to create a sustainable energy economy for North America. The Canadian oil sands are one of the world’s largest hydrocarbon resources and will be a significant contributor to energy supply and security for the continent. As such, the three countries agreed to collaborate through the SPP on the sustainable development of the oil sands resources and an ad hoc Oil Sands Experts Group was formed that includes the U.S., Canadian and Alberta Government representatives. The first deliverable for the Group consisted of the following: ‘By January 2006, building on joint discussions with key stakeholders and scientific experts, issue a report that discusses the mid- to long-term aspects of the oil sands product market development and the infrastructure and refinery implications for increased oil sands market penetration.’ To meet this deliverable, the Group convened a workshop in Houston, Texas, on January 24-25, 2006, that was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). […] The workshop brought together experts representing the oil sands industry, refiners, marketers, pipeline companies, and government.”
On several occasions, the SRC blamed the current situation on the Conservative government. As you know, the situation is much more complex, and goes beyond the election of a Conservative government on January 23, as suggested by Radio-Canada.
It is noteworthy that the report by Natural Resources Canada is made up of recommendations, whereas the reporter implied that it is binding and that the Conservative government approves the recommendations from the outset.
The SRC story contained a number of factual errors, including one regarding the appointment of the former environment minister, Ms Rona Ambrose. The story indicated that Ms Ambrose was appointed on February 16, when in fact she was appointed minister on February 6, 2006.
The report took a sensationalist tone and sought to draw a direct link between oil sands development and the election of the Conservative government, a link that is more than dubious.
On the program “Tout le monde en parle,” host Guy-A Lepage stated that the report might bring down Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative government. How could he make such a claim when most of the facts occurred under the Liberal government led by Paul Martin?
The wording used suggested to viewers that there was a link between the two events. How can any kind of link whatsoever be drawn between that meeting by oil industry leaders in Houston and Prime Minister Harper’s election the day before? There is no link between these two completely separate events. The timing angle, by which the events were depicted as occurring together within a broader environment, was unacceptable as worded in the report. There was no further clarification that would enable viewers to realize that these two events were completely separate from each other.
If the reporter felt it was important to indicate the timing of the meeting in Houston, a more nuanced wording -notably with regard to syntax- such as “Incidentally, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was elected on January 23,” would have had the advantage of dispelling any ambiguity. And as you know, the meeting of oil industry leaders was convened under the Liberal government of Paul Martin.
Furthermore, Radio-Canada spread misinformation that Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President George Bush met secretly. That information is completely false: no secret meeting or deal took place between Prime Minister Harper and President Bush.
A lot of things happened on January 24 and 25, 2006. I hope that not all those events that took place the day after January 23 have a direct link with our election. That would be rather bizarre timing.
I also want to clarify once again that our government was sworn in on February 6, 2006, which means that on February 6, 2006 , the Liberal Party of Canada was still in power.
This incident in no way diminishes my confidence in the excellent work carried out by the Société Radio-Canada. Media impartiality is essential in the knowledge and information society. The quality of our media institutions depends on it, as does the maintenance of the high degree of journalistic integrity that characterizes the SRC. We acknowledge that we are at odds with the SRC’s position. We are calling on you to consider the facts properly, so that the truth can come out of this misunderstanding.
I hope this meets with your expectations.
Sandra Buckler Director of Communications Prime Minister of Canada