Army of Climate Lobbyists Descends on Ottawa

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Ever wonder why Canada is so resistant to moving on climate change? Maybe it has something to do with the 1,500 climate change lobbyists pounding the halls of Parliament.

An illuminating article from the Montreal Gazette spills the beans on the explosion of carbon lobbyists shilling in our nation’s capital.

According to the Gazette, since 1996, an army of 1,570 lobbyists have descended on our nation’s capital with a specific focus on climate change. Their client list has steadily increased since that year from just 13 to 109, and you can bet that they are not representing Greenpeace.

In the first eight months of this year, the oil industry compromised the largest lobby on Parliament Hill representing 24 different companies and associations and of course all the big oil corporations. This lucrative stable of carbon clients also includes ten massive carbon emitters within the coal and mining industry.

According to the Gazette: combined, all these major producers have employed about 465 lobbyists since 1996 or about one third of the total climate change lobbyists. Other companies and organizations that have climate change lobbyists include manufacturers, power utilities, agriculture, transportation and environmental and health groups.

While environmental groups may have tried to crack this nut, clearly their penetration into the regime of Prime Minister Stephen Harper  has been minimal. According to Dale Marshall of the David Suzuki Foundation, “”the last time an environmental group met with Harper was when he was leader of the opposition.”

The oil industry is not stupid and of course would not part with their hard-earned petro-dollars unless they felt they were getting something very valuable from the this massive arm twisting effort.

According to former Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, “It’s almost daily. They say, ‘What can we do? There is no technology possible (for emission cuts). Can you exempt us? Please.’ This kind of pressure (is) always, everywhere.”

Clearly the untold millions spent creating access to decision makers that is completely unavailable to ordinary Canadians is having an effect, and a cost.

Last week, well-known British climate writer George Monbiot broke his self-imposed ban on air travel to fly to Toronto and inform Canadians how our previously stellar international reputation was being rapidly eroded by our wretched record on climate change.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.”

He went on to describe Canada as a “thuggish…corrupt petro-state” and give the emerging reputation of our nation from the other side of the pond: “Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling.”

Evidence of this chilling corruption of our national governance comes directly from the oil industry itself. According to the Gazette:

Mark Rudolph, a 20-year veteran lobbyist who represents Suncor Energy Inc. and Shell Canada Ltd. in Ottawa, said that lobbying the province of Alberta is virtually unnecessary since, he said, the government is entirely on the industry’s side. Alberta, in effect, represents the single most powerful lobby in Ottawa.

“The (Alberta) government … takes somewhat the same point of view as the denialist companies,” he said. “And they basically say to the feds – despite the fact that they are political brethren and the majority of the cabinet is from Alberta – ‘Back off. This is our domain. Don’t bother us.’ “

The unstoppable force of the tar sands has become an ugly political reality in Ottawa that enfeebles what puny political will exists in Canada to move towards a low-carbon economy.

“No government in Canada has ever gotten in the way of the oil industry. … You can reduce emissions in one area of the economy, but they will just be wiped out by the addition of a tar sands project,” said one senior federal policy analyst, who did not want to be named.

We as Canadians can of course continue to sell our souls for the sake of short-term jobs in Alberta in hopes of creating yet another short-lived oil boom. Is this a good deal? For the record, Alberta is projected to run a deficit of almost $6 billion this fiscal year and bizarrely did not salt away a cent during the last colossal oil boom. So much for sound fiscal management in the free enterprise capital of Canada.

And as they say in business, there’s no free lunch. The cost of our continued political petro-corruption will be the death of our well-deserved international stature forged in blood, toil and good efforts throughout the world over the last century.

 

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