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B.C.'s Climate Leadership Plan was cooked up in Calgary boardroom of powerful petroleum lobby

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Image: Flickr/Kyle Pearce

Using documents obtained through a Freedom of Information filing, the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has discovered B.C.'s former Liberal Government's "Climate Leadership Plan" was almost entirely cooked up at secret meetings with oil and gas industry representatives in the Calgary boardroom of the country's most powerful fossil fuel industry lobby group.

The covert meetings in the Calgary offices of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in early 2016 were attended by senior B.C. Government officials and what CCPA-BC described as "a who's who of the country's largest oil and gas corporations," the documents reveal.

That industry, as is well known, was among the biggest financial contributors to the conservative-leaning "Liberal" government of former B.C. premier Christy Clark under that province's Wild West election financing laws.

And this was no mere "consultation," discovered the researchers for the CCPA's Corporate Mapping Project, who are studying how the power of the fossil fuel industry influences Canadian governments.

"The documents we obtained reveal that the government spent three months working hand-in-hand with the oil and gas industry" to revise and rewrite recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team set up by Ms. Clark's government as the public face of the province's climate policy development process, said CCPA-BC Associate Director Shannon Daub.

The B.C. Climate Leadership Team, which turns out to have been nothing more than window dressing, included representatives of First Nations, environmental groups, municipalities and academics, in addition to industry. Meanwhile, the insiders at the boardroom table in Alberta actually drafted B.C.'s 2016 climate policy, almost entirely ignoring the 17-member team's recommendations in the process.

"It's a stunning misuse of the public's trust," said Daub, who was also co-author of the report on the FOI discoveries that was released at 5:00 a.m. Pacific time today.

So let's just pause there for a moment. Do you recall when the entire political right in Alberta went wild because a prominent Vancouver-based environmentalist had been included as a member of our provincial government's Oil Sands Advisory Group?

Brian Jean and Jason Kenney, now leading candidates to lead to the so-called United Conservative Party, repeatedly pilloried Tzeporah Berman. She had to flee an attacker at Edmonton International Airport. The right accused Premier Rachel Notley's NDP government of everything but treason -- and maybe that too.

So it's amusing to imagine how they would have reacted if Alberta's NDP government had drafted its entire plan for the future of the Alberta Bitumen Sands in the Vancouver offices of a major environmental group -- say, Greenpeace -- consulting only environmentalists like Berman!

Apocalypse Now?

It will be interesting to see how voters in B.C., which is now governed by an informal coalition of the New Democratic Party and the B.C. Green Party, react to this morning's revelations.

As an aside, it wouldn't be at all surprising if some of Alberta's right-wing political players were aware at the time of the fact B.C.'s Climate Leadership Plan was being cobbled together in the heart of the Alberta Oilpatch by representatives from ARC Resources Ltd., the B.C. LNG Alliance, Canbriam Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Chevron Canada, ConocoPhillips Canada, Encana Inc., Imperial Oil Resources, Chinese-owned Nexen/CNOOC, Malaysian-owned Progress Energy, Shell Canada, Suncor Energy Services Inc., Teck Resources, CAPP and a few others.

"The process constituted an invitation to the country's most powerful oil and gas companies to shape both the substance and language of B.C.'s next climate plan," the report by Daub and co-author Zoe Yunker concluded, based on their analysis of the FOI results.

"In sum," says this morning's report, "the B.C. government carried out secret meetings, in another province, with an industry that is a top contributor to the B.C. Liberal Party, in order to shape policy that ought to constrain that very industry -- as any meaningful climate policy must do in relation to the fossil fuel sector."

Ironically, under the current B.C. Lobbyist Registration Act, none of the Calgary meetings count as lobbying because they took place at the invitation of the Clark Government. "No other sector...could dream of this kind of access," said the CCPA report.

"This is more than a case of ideological alignment between a corporate-friendly party and its corporate donors," Daub and Yunker wrote. "It is a profound blurring of the lines between government and industry, who set out to make policy together behind closed doors, while what can only now be characterized as a pretend consultation was acted out publicly."

The charade was a waste of the Climate Leadership Team's time and B.C. taxpayers' money, and amounts to "institutional corruption," the researchers argue.

The B.C. Climate Leadership Team was appointed by the Clark Government in March 2015 and its final Climate Leadership Plan was supposed to be released a year later.

The team released recommendations that fall, disappointing some but containing good ideas and letting Clark and other B.C. officials jet off to Paris to bask in the public's approval at the UN climate talks.

In January 2016, "sector-specific industry consultations" were announced. In March, instead of releasing the plan as promised, the government extended its public consultation period, claiming a high level of public participation needed to be accommodated.

The Clark Government was silent until August 2016, when it announced its climate plan -- which "failed to wholly adopt a single one of the CLT's 32 recommendations."

Now we know why.

In May 2017, the B.C. provincial election ended in a virtual tie, with Clark and her Liberals appearing to hang onto power by the fingernails. The Green Party held the balance of power in the Legislature in Victoria with three seats.

In late June, the government fell on a motion of confidence and the Lieutenant Governor asked the NDP led by John Horgan to form a government.

The NDP and their Green partners are now about to reform the province's election financing laws.

The Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research initiative jointly run by the University of Victoria, CCPA's B.C. and Saskatchewan branches, and the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute. It is financed by a $2.5-million grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, plus $2 million in matching funds from partner organizations.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Flickr/Kyle Pearce

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