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Never before has a Canadian politician challenged the hitherto saintly protectors of the environment in such direct language

Through most of 2011, Canadian energy officials in politics and industry watched with bewildered helplessness and some shock as Washington allowed environmentalists to seize control of TransCanada’s $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline issue. They stood by aghast as President Barack Obama, a captive of U.S. green activists and Hollywood movie stars, caved in to political pressure and postponed a decision to approve the project, a potential economic bonanza that promised to deliver thousands of jobs to Americans and billions of barrels of Canadian oil sands production to Texas.

No such green hijacking is going to take place in Canada, at least not without an official fight. On the eve of hearings, which begin Tuesday in Kitimat, B.C., into the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline — to carry the same oil sands production from Alberta to the West Coast and on to China — the Harper government clearly aims to do what Barack Obama cannot or will not do in America, namely stand up to the growth-killing professional green movement.

It is a cliché in journalism to declare metaphorical wars at the drop of a news release. In this case, it looks like war is exactly what Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver launched Monday in an unprecedented open letter warning that Canada will not allow “environmental and other radical groups” to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

What a welcome war this is. Never before has a Canadian politician challenged the hitherto saintly protectors of the environment in such direct language. More importantly, Mr. Oliver took straight aim at a troubling trend in Canadian environmentalism — the foreign funding of Canadian green activist groups with the express purpose of shutting down Canadian resource development — first documented in the National Post by Vancouver investigative writer Vivian Krause.

“These groups,” said Mr. Oliver, “seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interests to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.”

Not many Canadian politicians would dare lock horns with Hollywood’s best scene stealers and myth makers — the likes of veteran director Robert Redford, Avatar creater James Cameron, mermaid Daryl Hannah and superstar Leonardo DiCaprio, all of whom have lent their personas to various movements aimed at shutting down large portions of the Canadian economy.

Mr. Oliver, in an interview yesterday, said “we’ve got some $500-billion in projects that will be coming up that are in the Canadian national interest over the next 10 years, and we cannot take them for granted.” There are groups, he said, that have radical green agendas that receive “money coming from the states.”

The Harper government’s objective is to prevent projects from being tied up in never-ending regulatory processes. The Kitimat review of Gateway is already headed for a logjam, with 4,000 individuals and groups seeking standing. If the hearings could accommodate 10 people a day through 200 sitting days a year, it would take two years just to exhaust the list of intervenors, many of whom are staged entrants aimed at prolonging the Gateway review.

Exactly how Ottawa could short-circuit the looming Gateway marathon isn’t clear, although Mr. Oliver said Ottawa may have to impose time limits. “We do want to address timelines, to make sure there are fixed timelines” to bring some predictability to the approval processes. “This is federal jurisdiction and so we can either through regulation or maybe legislation deal with these issues.”

None of this went down well with Greenpeace, the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, Elizabeth May’s Green Party and others. Ms. May wrapped herself in green nationalism, saying Canada did not have an “energy policy,” something she seemed to think involved reducing dependence on imported oil. She cited the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union — which includes thousands of Canadian journalists — as authority for her claims.

Reporters, meanwhile, pushed Mr. Oliver to come up with the names of foreign organizations with radical agendas that are funding green groups in Canada. He did mention the U.S-based Tides organization, an outfit exposed by Ms. Krause in the National Post series last year.

The foreign-funding issue is clearly a sensitive one for green groups. One of the major recipients of U.S. foundation backing is the Dogwood Intitiative, a leading anti-pipeline group that has received funding from the U.S. Tides foundation and the Hewlett and Packard foundations. They’ve poured more than $50-million into the Dogwood’s Great Bear Rain Forest program, which aims to shut down oil tanker traffic to the B.C. coast, and hence block access to any Gateway pipeline.

Dogwood tried yesterday to downplay its foreign funding. It said in a statement that foreign oil companies invested nearly $20-billion in the oil sands while “the blogger Vivian Krause [said] U.S. charitable foundations have given Canadian environmental groups less than 1.5% of that amount over a 10-year period.” That works out to $250-million dollars from U.S. activists foundations to troublemakers such as Dogwood.

By drawing attention to the foreign-funding issue, Mr. Oliver has taken direct aim at a radical green movement that has succeeded in paralyzing a U.S. president. Fortunately, the Harper Conservatives appear to have no intention of following Mr. Obama’s lead.

Financial Post, 10 January 2012


Vivian Krause’s exposes in FP Comment
Open letter from Joe Oliver