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Government and industry tar sands spin clean-up happening in Europe

Photo: Stuart Trew, Hannah McKinnon and Evert Hassink (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) in The Hague, on EU Lobby Busting Tour. Credit: Ben Powless.

This past week, Trade Campaigner Stuart Trew participated in a European Lobby Busting Tour exposing Canada’s confuse and bully campaign against a European climate policy. Stuart was joined by Hannah McKinnon (Climate Action Network Canada). Chief Bill Erasmus (National Dene Chief and the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of the Northwest Territories) joined London, UK and Berlin, Germany while Ben Powless (Mohawk from Six Nations, Indigenous Environmental Network Delegate) and Steven Guillbeault (Deputy Director, Équiterre) participated in the Paris, France and The Hague, Netherlands meetings. The tour is sponsored by the Council of Canadians alongside Climate Action Network Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

This tour is part of an ongoing Council of Canadians campaign that has included European media advertisements, a lobby busting tour of European embassies in Ottawa, the collection and delivery of Canadians’ photos in support of the policy, and more.

The Canadian confuse and bully lobby campaign against the EU Fuel Quality Directive, on the part of the Canadian and Alberta governments and industry, has been intense. In 2010 alone there were at least 110 lobbying meetings. There have been reports, visits to the tar sands and advertisements. Natural Resources Minister Oliver has called the policy discriminatory and not based on sound science. Threats to bring the policy to the WTO have been issued and behind the door bullying has happened during CETA negotiations.

Our campaign, and this lobby busting tour, are directed at countering these efforts. This includes directly responding to the misinformation being peddled and telling a different side of the story on the tar sands.

We also want to make it clear to European decision makers that this lobbying does not represent the values of the majority of Canadians. The delegation in bringing the voices of millions of Canadians in their meetings with European decision makers in delivering a kit of information that includes:

- An open letter endorsed by organizations representing over 1 million Canadians, opposing Canada’s lobby efforts and supporting the policy

- A document directly responding to misinformation in Canada’s confuse and bully lobby campaign

- A report exposing Canada’s dirty diplomacy

- Information on tar sands and Indigenous Rights

- A letter from Megan Leslie, NDP Environment Critic, opposing Canada’s lobbying and supporting the policy

- A letter from the Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, opposing Canada’s lobbying and supporting the policy

- Report on CETA and the Tar Sands

      The tour is well timed, following up on a recent vote on the FQD that put the decision in the hands of elected representatives, and the expected vote on the Directive this June. With the help of allies including Friends of the Earth France and Netherlands, UK Tar Sands Network and Greenpeace and WWF in Germany, a series of high profile meetings have taken place - meetings are ongoing in Berlin. These meetings range from meeting civil servants responsible for FQD file, to Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment to a Canadian Ambassador and an individual responsible for environment with the Parti Socialist (current ahead in the polls leading into a French election).

      For accounts of the meetings to date in Paris, The Hague, and London, you can read Hannah, Ben and Stuart’s blogs.

      The delegation has also been meeting with media, prompting a response from Minister Oliver in this ipolitics article. You can also read about the tour in this cbc and Le Monde article. You can watch video interviews (thanks to the UK Tar Sands Network) with Stuart, Chief Erasmus and Hannah.

      Today in Berlin the delegation delivered a petition outside the Ministry of Economics which has been blocking the FQD, participated in a press conference, met with Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Ambassador to Germany.

      Photo: Chief Bill Erasmus delivering petition outside Ministry of Economics, Berlin Germany, EU Lobby Busting Tour

      While we certainly have less resources available to us - unbelievable to think that Canadian tax payers dollars are being spent to lobby against other countries’ climate policies! - this tour has opened a number of possibilities for further discussions and certainly, our message about the tar sands and Canada’s lobbying efforts are being heard.

      While there is more to be said, sure enough there are some hopeful signs that the next vote will lead to the right decision - support for a climate policy that rightfully recognizes bitumen (or tar sands) as a high carbon crude.

      Andrea is the Energy and Climate Justice campaigner for the Council of Canadians

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