How not to sell the Oil Sands

If you haven’t read Tzeporah Berman’s Daily Kos piece – My Government Doesn’t Believe in Climate Change – go check it out. It’s amazing to see how out of sync, and behind the ball, the government has gotten on this issue.

Indeed, the current government really is becoming the best weapon opponents to the pipelines have against their construction and the further development of the oil sands.

First, the Natural Resource Minister called environmentalists who opposed Northern Gateway – the pipeline that would take Oil Sand crude from Alberta to British Columbia’s west coast – a “radical”. In short order it turns out that, well, the vast majority of British Columbians were radicals since opposition to the pipeline has been, and remains, strong.

Worse, by declaring war on environmentalists and those concerned about climate change, the Minister set a table that would become distinctly awkward when it came to trying to get the White House and State Department to approve Keystone XL – the pipeline that would export oil sands oil down to the US. Consider that the US President mentioned his concerns about climate change in his State of the Union address and the US ambassador to Canada has hinted that Canada’s commitment to addressing climate change may factor into their decisions around Keystone. So now, at the very moment the Canadian Government needs help to persuade the Americans they actually are serious about climate change, they just come out of a five year patch where they’ve labeled everyone who disagrees with it as a radical, sicced auditors on them and tried to shut many of them down. So suddenly they are in a difficult position of having few, if any, allies in the environmental movement they can turn to to help it gain credibility around any of the actions they wish to take. It’s a communications and policy disaster.

Of course, it doesn’t help that even in the midst of trying to convince the United States it actually is serious about Climate Change, the Natural Resource Minister has speaking notes that feature strong climate change denier comments. Elizabeth May, Green Party candidate in the house of commons summed up the Minister Oliver’s quotes – made to the editorial board of La Presse – quite nicely:

This is what Oliver told the editorial board of La Presse: “I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees… Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated.”

Thank goodness the editorial board at La Presse knows how to ask questions. They pressed him to name any scientist who thinks our fears are exaggerated. He couldn’t.

So basically, we have a minister who is willing to go on record to make a claim about the future of the planet without being able to reference a single source. I’m sure the White House and State Department are deeply comforted.

It is all doubly amazing as this government has been masterful at handling communications around virtually every issue – except for the one that matters most to it, where it has suddenly becoming a bumbling idiot.

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