Columnists

Linda McQuaig
Harper's campaign against environmental groups

| June 5, 2012
Photo: Toban Black/Flickr

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Nicole Eaton may be Canada's Mitt Romney.

The Republican presidential candidate comes across as a wealthy patrician with little sense of how tough the world can be for people who don't have tens of millions of dollars at their disposal.

That tendency also seems to afflict Eaton, a wealthy Conservative fundraiser appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. She's a leading figure in the Harper government's campaign to aggressively go after environmental activist groups by threatening their charitable status.

"I don't understand their fear of a chill," Eaton told the Globe and Mail last week. Eaton, who was born wealthy and married into the Canadian department store fortune, has probably never experienced the kind of fear that the Harper government seems bent on instilling in environmental activists who dare to challenge its agenda.

In fact, creating a chill among environmental activists seems to be precisely the aim of the Harper team, as it gears up for a new stage in its battle to sideline anyone raising questions about the relentless growth of Alberta's oilsands.

And the involvement of Eaton somehow highlights the David and Goliath nature of the climate change fight, as the Harper government lines up with wealthy interests in a battle that particularly imperils some of world's poorest people who live in low-lying regions soon to be engulfed by rising seas.

It seems unnecessary to point out that the proper role of government is to protect the public interest, which includes not only encouraging economic development but also protecting us against the devastating consequences of climate change.

But, with his close ties to the oil industry, Harper has long sought to derail global climate action.

Now, with a majority government, Harper's campaign to scuttle action on climate change has taken a more insidious turn, as he uses the resources of the state to intimidate and silence critics.

To this end, the government recently revised anti-terrorism legislation to add environmental groups as a potential threat. It's also provided additional resources to government tax authorities to audit environmental charities. And it's denounced environmentalists as "extremists" funded by "foreign money" -- that is, money they receive from U.S. charitable foundations aiding their efforts to protect endangered ecosystems in Canada and elsewhere.

Eaton, in launching a Senate inquiry into the role of foreign money in environmental charities, charged that there was "influence peddling" attempting to shape Canadian policy.

Her probe, however, won't include an examination of the role in shaping Canadian policy played by the most successful influence peddlers in history -- the multi-trillion-dollar international oil lobby.

Instead, Eaton will have environmentalists in her crosshairs -- those would-be terrorists, led by 76-year-old national icon David Suzuki, who, in a nationwide CBC poll, was selected as one of the greatest Canadians of all time.

Suzuki recently left the board of the David Suzuki Foundation, saying he feared his outspoken comments might bring additional heat onto the organization.

Nor will the right-wing Fraser Institute have to worry about an audit of its charitable status, despite receiving $500,000 between 2007 and 2010 from Koch Industries, the U.S. oil conglomerate that's played a leading role in blocking global climate action.

The ultimate aim of the Harper team's aggressive new stance is undoubtedly to create sufficient diversion to distract public attention while it guts federal environmental laws and dismantles environmental monitoring systems -- even ones put in place by former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Hence, rather than responding to points raised by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair about the economic and environmental consequences of limitless oilsands development, Harper simply brands his critique "divisive" and tries to create a sideshow controversy about national unity.

The Harper team is hoping we'll be so caught up in worrying about Mulcair's "divisiveness" and the foreign funding of environmental groups that we won't notice the approaching climate disaster, nor the fact that they're using the full resources of Canada to champion the world's most powerful lobby and to crush anyone who gets in its way.

Linda McQuaig is author of It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet and The Trouble With Billionaires. This article was first published in the Toronto Star.

Comments

Hey Good news! I looked up consensus and look what I found:

 

Every single one of the scientists and organizations has their own definition of CO2’s effects so consensus of climate change killing our kids certainly cannot exist. It’s impossible.

 

When condemning our own children to a CO2 demise comes so easily, something in our society is very wrong.

 

So I can't do this anymore. Count me out and if we don't start backing off "condemning the voter’s children to a death by CO2", the neocons could be in power forever. Climate change will cost us the election and make us all fools for the history books. Imagine, threatening the voters to vote for us or the planet will die from evil neocons? We have become the Big Green Fear Machine and people are sick of it. Let's move on. Move forward.

Linda,

You are a tired old lib. Julian Assange of wikileaks is a denier and Occupywallstreet does not mention CO2 in its list of demands and Obama has not mentioned any climate crisis in two state of the unions.

 Canadians voted in a climate change denying (we accused him) prime minister to a majority. The people have spoken and now your fear mongering is just sad. Move on. Move forward. Be progressive and follow the herd as it has moved on.

Canadians freely voted in a climate change denying prime minister (we accused him), to a majority and promptly dumped Y2Kyoto.

 The people have spoken and as peace loving progressives, we should respect the consensus of the voters not the exaggerating and exploiting lab coat consultants of science who also gave us pesticides and deep sea drilling technology and germ warfare.

 

Fear mongering the voter's children will leave us out of power forever.

When the millions in the global scientific community declare publicly that their kids are doomed to a death by CO2 as well our kids, somebody might believe they are not exaggerating after all. Climate change was unsustainable.

 

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