Secret Canada - U.S. oil plan
concerns opposition leaders
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:30 p.m., January 18, 2007]
|U.S. President George W. Bush.
OTTAWA — Opposition
politicians expressed surprise and concern Thursday following a
television report of a secret plan for Canada to dramatically expand
its oil sands exports to the U.S.
Radio-Canada reported Wednesday evening that it had obtained
the minutes of a secret meeting between American and Albertan oil
executives that occured shortly after last year's federal
election. The PMO has since denied Radio Canada's
suggestion that the meeting was secret and has complained to the CBC
ombudsman about the suggestion that the meeting was arranged by the
The meeting was arranged by Natural Resources Canada and the U.S.
Department of Energy.
According to Radio-Canada's documents, the Canadians and Americans
developed a proposal to increase oil sands exports to the U.S.
"fivefold" in a short period of time. The plan would
require Canada to "streamline" environmental regulations
to speed up the expansion.
The U.S. need for Canadian oil is being fuelled largely by national
security objectives outlined by the White House to reduce American
dependency on oil produced in unstable parts of the world, such as
U.S. President George W. Bush outlined this policy broadly in
last year's State of the Union Address when he said "America is addicted to oil which is often imported from unstable parts of the
While contributing to Canada's steady economic growth in recent
years, Canada's oil sands have increasingly become the target of
criticism from environmental groups because of the large amount of
greenhouse gas emitted in extracting oil from the tar sands.
The Green Party and the NDP have both called for some slowdown in
the development in Canada's booming oil industry.
In an interview with PoliticsWatch on Thursday, NDP Leader Jack
Layton said he had suspicions that "something was up"
between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Bush
administration regarding the oil sands, especially after the prime
minister began touting Canada as an "energy superpower."
Layton has said in the past that any cooperation his party would
give to prop up the minority Tory government would require the
government to end tax incentives for the oil industry for start up
However, the prime minister has been publicly reluctant to end the
tax breaks for the oil patch after the government recently angered
the sector when it broke its promise not to tax income trusts.
"That obviously had a significant impact on the energy
sector," Harper told reporters before Christmas. "I think it would be asking a bit much to target the energy sector for tax hikes in that manner."
Layton said the Radio-Canada report raises more questions about
whether the prime minister is really serious about addressing
"I've expressed real concerns about whether Mr. Harper was serious about climate
change," Layton said. "What's suggested now is in fact he may have been aware
and be thoroughly engaged in the process of accelerated oil sands development."
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Thursday that if the Radio
Canada report is true than the PM's recent push to tackle climate
change is all smoke and mirrors.
"If it's true that means that for the prime minister to be green is only an
embarrassment," Dion said at a press conference in Ottawa.
"He's doing that for electoral reasons."
While the current government is being criticized for the secret plan
with the U.S., the meeting actually took place days after the
federal election, a few weeks before Harper was sworn in as prime
At the time, John Efford was the Liberal natural resources
minister. However, Efford had been considered as an absentee
minister because of health problems that often kept him away from
Dion, who was still environment minister when the meeting took place
in Houston, said "I was not aware of it at all -- that specific meeting."
"I was unaware of any specific plan to increase the use of the oil sands. That is not a topic we were aware of."
Bloc Quebecois MP Claude DeBellefeuille issued a statement
Thursday criticizing the current natural resources minister, Gary
Lunn, for failing to inform the Commons natural resources
committee about the proposal when he appeared before them to discuss
the oil sands in the fall.
Natural Resources Canada did not immediately return PoliticsWatch's
request for an interview.
© PoliticsWatch® 2006. All rights reserved. Republication
or redistribution of PoliticsWatch content, including by framing,
copying, linking or similar means, is expressly prohibited without
the prior written consent of Public Interests Research and Communications
Inc. (PIRCINC). PoliticsWatch is registered trademark of PIRCINC.