Agree or disagree with their intentions and methods, it is hard to not be fascinated with the recent Greenpeace actions across Alberta at oilsands extraction sites near Fort McMurray and a Shell smokestack near Fort Saskatchewan. These live-streamed-to-the-world actions are part of a new reality as our province becomes more internationally known for our energy resources and the results of the extraction practices that we allow the oil companies to use.
The stunted political discourse in Alberta may continue to focus on the folly of a $2 billion carbon capture scheme, but Albertans should know that much of the international discourse around energy and the environment is centered around the decisions that will be made at the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009.
The reaction to the Greenpeace actions from our politicians was as provincialist as I expected. Premier Ed Stelmach, perhaps still perturbed over Greenpeace dropping in at a PC Party fundraiser, was reportedly fuming when he declared that the government would not “put up with this kind of behaviour again.” Rather than taking the high-ground in this debate, Stelmach was then quoted saying something that I found to be quite debasing:
“Most of these protesters are from outside the country of Canada. They are really tourists telling us how we should develop our resources.”
The Alberta government has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars being tourists. In an attempt to attract international attention and investment the Alberta government operates trade offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Munich, London, Mexico City, and Washington DC. The Alberta government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to send Cabinet Ministers and MLAs to international conferences around the world as representatives of our natural resources. This year, the Alberta government spent $25 million on an advertising campaign in an attempt to re-brand the oilsands after the unfortunate Anatidae family incident.
I do not oppose the Alberta government representing our province overseas, I encourage it. But I expect that as our Cabinet Ministers and MLAs wine and dine at expensive international cocktail parties, that they appreciate of subtle shades of responses that the international attention they desire will draw. Just as the Alberta government sends its tourists around the world, our elected officials would be fools to not expect international organizations like Greenpeace to spend resources being tourists in our backyard.