Committee calls Dion to testify about
oil sands meeting
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:50 p.m., January 29, 2007]
|Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.
OTTAWA — Liberal
Leader Stephane Dion is being called to testify before a Commons
committee about his knowledge of a meeting in Houston last year on
expanding Canada's oil sands production.
The Commons natural resources committee unanimously passed a
Bloc motion to call Dion, who was environment minister at the time
the Houston meeting was organized, former natural resources minister
John McCallum, current Environment Minister John Baird
and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.
While current ministers are compelled to appear before committees
former cabinet ministers do not have to. However, since the Liberals
on the committee supported the motion it is expected that Dion will
make an appearance.
The committee had been in the final stage of completing its report
on oil sands development when a Radio Canada report about the
meeting prompted some committee members to want to learn more about
The Prime Minister's Office has complained to the CBC's ombudsman
about the report on the meeting for trying to link it to the current
The meeting took place in late January of last year, days after the
election, but a week before the Conservative government was sworn
The meeting was organized by the oil sands working group of a
trilateral body created by former prime minister Paul Martin,
U.S. President George W. Bush and former Mexican president Vicente
Fox in 2005 called the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
Nearly 60 energy sector officials and officials from the Canadian,
U.S. and Alberta governments participated in the expert group's
workshop in Houston.
The executive summary of the working group's report predicts a
fivefold expansion for oil sands products in a "relatively
short time span" and requests governments
"streamline" regulatory approval for pipeline and energy
Greater public attention of the working group comes at a sensitive
time for both the Tories and the Liberals as they battle to appear
more environmentally friendlier than one another. Oil sands
production is considered one of Canada's biggest emitters of
When questioned earlier this month about the meeting in Houston,
Dion denied any knowledge of it.
"I was unaware of any specific plan to increase the use of the oil
sands," Dion said. "That is not a topic we were aware of."
Bloc Quebecois MP Claude DeBellefeuille, who tabled the
motion, said the ministers and former ministers need to come before
the committee given recent comments by Lunn about oil sands
"I've read enough documents, there is enough indication that
there is a willingness to speed up the development. How many million
barrels a day? Well the witnesses will help us answer that
question," she told the committee.
The natural resources committee was just one of several fronts in
the first day of Parliament where the parties sparred over green
In another committee room, members of a special legislative
committee on the Clean Air Act met to lay out a witness schedule for
their hearings. The hearings will be among the most closely watched
developments on the Hill in the coming months.
And on the floor of the House of Commons, Dion and Prime Minister Stephen
Harper sparred over the environment issue.
In their first encounter in the new session of Parliament, Dion
accused Harper of being a "climate change denier" and
asked if he believed in the science of climate change.
Harper denied Dion's suggestion and said "it is not sufficient to simply believe in something. One has to actually do something about it to prove that one is serious."
The PM repeated the theme now being televised in Conservative party
attack ads which criticize the Liberal government and Dion's failure
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over their 13 years in
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