“Revealed: Canadian government spent millions on secret tar sands advocacy” (The Guardian)

The Syncrude tar sands site near Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta. (Photograph: David Levene/David Levene)

Martin Lukacs (The Guardian):

In its 2013 budget, the government invested $30 million over two years on public relations advertising and domestic and international ‘outreach activities’ to promote Alberta’s tar sands.

The outreach activities, which cost $4.5 million and were never publicly disclosed, included efforts to ‘advance energy literacy amongst BC First Nations communities.’ (…)

This weekend Harper and several Conservative politicians launched an attack on a New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate who suggested that the exploitation of Alberta’s deposits may need to be curbed for Canada to meet its climate targets.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney and other high-profile figures like the United Nations climate chief have warned that the ‘vast majority of [global] reserves are unburnable.’

Scientific studies show that 85 percent of the tar sands should stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change tipping points.

While the Harper government has staked its economic vision on the full development of the Alberta tar sands, a crash in oil prices created a budgetary crisis in early 2015 and contributed to a contraction of the Canadian economy, which many economists say is in a recession.

Harper’s critics have argued it would be more sound economics to support the clean energy sector, which already provides more employment in Canada than the oil sector. Investment in clean energy can provide 6 to 8 times more jobs than similar investment in the oil industry.

During Harper’s reign, the oil industry has gained unprecedented access to policy-making. Adopting reforms lobbied for by the oil industry, the Conservative government passed legislation dismantling a generation of environmental regulations to ensure resource projects could be more easily approved.

The Conservative government has also targeted environmental and Indigenous organizations with arbitrary audits, muzzled government scientists, slashed funding to its Environment department and reduced its capacity for climate change monitoring.

“The Harper government gutted environmental laws and destroyed public faith in the regulatory system in order to fast-track pipelines, then wasted $30 million of public money on a public relations campaign doomed to fail. They seem to think that if they spend enough money, they can fool all of the people all of the time but that kind of arrogance is a risky re-election strategy at a time of low oil prices and rising concern over climate change,” said Keith Stewart, a Greenpeace climate analyst, who obtained the documents through FOI.

Full article here