Harper Govt spent $120 million helping Enbridge: Elizabeth May

Harper caught helping Enbridge while wooing Obama on climate

Harper Govt spent $120 million helping Enbridge: Elizabeth May
Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

While Stephen Harper was busy trying to green-wash his image with Barack Obama – acquiescing to climate targets to improve prospects for the Keystone XL pipeline – Green Party Leader Elizabeth May dropped a bombshell: the suggestion that the Conservative Government is spending $120 million in tax dollars to “grease the wheels” for Enbridge and its Northern Gateway pipeline bid.

May and her only elected Green cohort, BC MLA and Nobel Prize-winning UVic climate scientist Andrew Weaver, discussed the allegation at a press conference in Victoria on Wednesday. Said Weaver:

[quote]Documents obtained from Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reveal that at a time when core science is being cut across the Government of Canada, tax dollars are being spent to do Enbridge’s homework for them.[/quote]

Harper tries to turn over new leaf

The revelation was bad timing for the prime minister, coming on the heels of a letter he sent personally to Obama, promising “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.”

According to CBC, Harper reached out to his US counterpart in late August, in an attempt to persuade him to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s Tar Sands to refineries in Texas. The project is in limbo, with Obama twice delaying his decision on the matter, recently bumping it 2014.


The Harper Government’s considerable lobbying efforts have yet to move Obama on Keystone. Some have even hampered their mission – like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s attack of renowned former NASA climatologist James Hansen at a Washington, DC event. This failure is now compelling the prime minister to back off his earlier opposition to hard climate commitments, says CBC:

[quote]Sources told CBC News the prime minister is willing to accept targets proposed by the United States for reducing the climate-changing emissions and is prepared to work in concert with Obama to provide whatever political cover he needs to approve the project.[/quote]

Those sources also say Harper wanted to address Keystone with Obama at this week’s G20 Summit in Russia, but the pipeline project was drown out in the tempest surrounding Syria.

May’s allegations can’t be of help to the Prime Minster’s attempted image makeover, which is why his government was quick to respond this week. Harper’s top lieutenant on pipeline matters, Joe Oliver, fired back:

[quote]While the Green party and the New Democratic Party oppose resource development projects before the science is in, our government will not make decisions until an independent, scientific review determines they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.[/quote]

According to the Canadian Press, Ottawa said the money is going to “oil tanker safety studies on Canada’s coastlines…announced last March in Vancouver by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver against a backdrop of tankers and shipping vessels in Burrard Inlet.”

(You may recall this event for the irony of a federal oil spill clean-up ship running aground en route to the press conference)

Government handout to Big Oil

May and Weaver aren’t buying this defense. To them, Ottawa is using tax dollars to subsidize things that Enbridge should be doing at its own expense – like $78 million for bitumen-specific marine spill studies. Add to that another $42 million to develop improved weather monitoring systems for the rugged north and central coast waters which tankers would transit if Northern Gateway goes ahead.

Federal monies for such core elements of Enbridge’s National Energy Board application amount to a government hand-out, says Weaver:

[quote]This is another example of federal money being used to essentially subsidize industry, and industry’s inability to actually provide effective response to marine dilbit (bitumen) oil spills because the tools don’t exist.[/quote]

For a leader who has spent the past several years gutting environmental laws, monitoring and enforcement staff, cutting research monies, and muzzling scientists, it won’t be easy now to suddenly convince Obama that he’s turned a new leaf. This is, after all, a president who has been heading in the opposite direction of late, earning accolades for his progressive talk on climate action.

By contrast, Harper’s egregious environmental record has spurred criticism from all corners – even two former Conservative fisheries ministers – leading to a series of “Stand Up for Science” rallies across the country on September 16.

If Keystone fails, it will be partly because the prime minister’s war on science and the environment finally caught up with him.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

12 thoughts on “Harper caught helping Enbridge while wooing Obama on climate

  1. “While the Green party and the New Democratic Party oppose resource development projects before the science is in, our government will not make decisions until an independent, scientific review determines they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.”

    Politinese to English translation:

    “We’re going to keep pouring money into Big Oil until you can prove us wrong.”

    How is throwing money at resource development corporations NOT making a decision? It’s laughable how thin these veils of lies are becoming.

  2. I know BC is at the far end of the Empire, but it really is time to drop the pretense that humans have anything to do with the naturally occurring shifts in climate that happen approximately every 30 years.

    That said, Harper and Obama are the henchmen of the NWO and they do what is profitable for their masters, whether that is a carbon tax or a pipeline.

    1. Out of a survey of 12,000 climate scientists, 97% would disagree with you. http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm
      Human-caused climate change is not fringe science. Climate change is real, it’s serious, and I’d base my decision on more than a single article before accepting or rejecting it. Also see this article which shows that ocean temperatures have risen about 400 percent http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/what-ocean-heating-reveals-about-global-warming/ which explains where all the heat is going.

  3. Good article. However, I think you’re being just a wee bit naive in thinking that Obama isn’t cut from exactly the same cloth as Harper and every other politician on the planet, for that matter. You honestly believe that Harper is trying to fool Obama? Neither one of them gives a single toss about the environment – unless of course, it can make them money. Harper doesn’t have to worry about hiding his true colours amongst other world leaders. They’re all playing the same game.

    1. Maybe he is cut from the same cloth, but at minimum he recognizes the political value in addressing climate change. And that makes him worlds apart from Harper. I think Obama’s right, politically, and Harper is just coming around to this notion – too late.

  4. Good stuff, Damien Gillis, good stuff. Do you have an Enbridge/Keystone/Northern Gateway documentary in the works? Would LOVE to see that happen . . .

    1. Thanks RJ. My latest project, which will be on CBC Documentary Channel next year, is called Fractured Land and deals with some of these myriad issues – through the eyes of a young First Nations lawyer named Caleb Behn. Check out the teaser here: http://vimeo.com/57914714

      Our main focus is fracking, but it’s a big-picture story that will examine larger questions about where we’re headed as a society and how we can better balance the apparently competing pressures of jobs and environmental conservation.

      1. Damien, Thanks for a good article.

        I do believe Obama realizes the importance of climate change and the effect the KXL will have on the world and the US. He will not allow it to go thru.

        Also glad to hear you are working with Caleb Behn. A very worthy project!

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