What do you get when you put some of the Canadian Oil Sands fiercest critics in the same room with its most vocal supporters? The Alberta Government’s new 18-member Oil Sands Advisory Group.
The Alberta government announced the formation of the group yesterday along with its three co-chairs: Dave Collyer, the former president and CEO of the the oil industry’s top lobby group the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Tzeporah Berman, an environmental advocate and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at York University, and Melody Lepine, a member and Director of Government and Industry relations with the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
The group of 18 includes representatives from municipal governments, First Nations, Metis communities, the energy industry, and environmental groups who will “advise government on the oil sands aspects of the Climate Leadership Plan and ensure that its initiatives are effective and widely supported.”
Almost immediately after the advisory group was announced, the Wildrose Party attacked Ms. Berman’s appointment, claiming she was a radical by citing her comments that the Oil Sands reminded her of “Mordor” from the fictional Lord of the Rings books. A vocal critic of the oil industry in the past, Ms. Berman posted a response on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon, saying she regretted the comments.
Ms. Berman wrote: “Though I have been a vocal critic of “business as usual” in the oil sands, I recognize that change doesn’t happen over night. It is a tremendous step forward that the Alberta government has decided to extend our earlier industry-environment work and enlist the help of more industry participants and the wisdom of non-Indigenous and Indigenous community leaders. I am committed to working in good faith with the rest of the advisory group to develop advice that ensures a strong economy and a leadership position for Alberta on environmental issues.”
She also provided a link to a video of her joint presentation with Suncor CEO Steve Williams at the recent Business and Climate Summit in London, UK, where they spoke articulately about the work being done in Alberta.
The NDP have put forward the most comprehensive plan to fight Climate Change that Alberta has ever seen, something that the Progressive Conservatives were unable to do in the final decade of their 44 years in government and the Wildrose Party has been unable to do in its four years as official opposition.
But with critics and climate change deniers ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, it is clear that the NDP government needs to do a better job clearly communicating why their much-lauded Climate Leadership Plan is important. Anticipating opposition criticisms and preparing to actively counter them is a critically important element for the success of the Climate Change plan.
If you only listened to Alberta’s loudest and most-outraged conservative voices, from Brian Jean and George Clark to Jason Kenney and Ezra Levant, you would believe that Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party government had launched a holy crusade to destroy Canada’s oil industry. This isn’t true, of course.
The irony of the criticism in response to Ms. Berman’s appointment is that, only a few years ago, opposition NDP MLAs would have roasted the old PC government for appointing a former CEO of CAPP to co-chair an advisory group like this one. In fact, they did.
In 2013, the NDP called on the PCs to reverse their appointment of Gerry Protti as the chair of Alberta’s energy regulator. Mr. Protti is the founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and at that time was a registered lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, an energy industry lobby group.
The then-NDP opposition Environment critic Rachel Notley said in a press release that “the Redford government isn’t doing itself any favours with this embarrassing post—it unravels the entire yarn they’ve been trying to sell the world about their commitment to responsible resource development and environmental protection. If we continue to act like a banana republic, we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re treated like one by the international community.”
Three years later, the NDP has appointed a former CAPP President and CEO to co-chair a group that will advise the implementation of the government’s flagship Climate Change policy. Partnering Mr. Collyer, Ms. Berman and Ms. Lepine as co-chairs was a bold move that reinforces the government’s message that the NDP are able and willing to work with a broad group of Oil Sands stakeholders.
One of the most admirable strengths of Ms. Notley’s government has been its ability to build broad and pragmatic coalitions that include champions from outside of the NDP’s traditional sphere.
Unlike the previous government, the NDP has intentionally sought to bring together a group of people with diverse and differing political views and expertise to advise on the implementation of Alberta’s Climate Change plans. This was very evident when Ms. Notley released the government’s Climate Leadership Plan in December 2015 surrounded by energy and environmental leaders, when Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips tabled the Carbon Levy legislation in May 2016 and yesterday when this Oil Sands Advisory group was announced.
Here is list of the other members of the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group:
- Veronica Bliska – Reeve of the Municipal District of Peace
- Bill Clapperton is Vice President – Regulatory, Stakeholder and Environmental Affairs of Canadian Natural Resource Ltd
- Anne Downey is Vice President of Operations for Statoil Canada and responsible for resource development and continuous operations for the Leismer Asset
- Simon Dyer is Pembina Institute’s associate regional director for Alberta and former director of the Institute’s oilsands program.
- Tim Gray is Executive Director of Environmental Defence.
- Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom is Chief of the Woodland Cree First Nation, with a population of 1,300 people, 700 of whom live on the Reserve at Cadotte Lake.
- Bill Loutitt is Vice President, Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935. He is also President of Nistawoyou Friendship Centre and former President of Metis Nation of Alberta Region One
- Karen Mahon is the Canadian Director of STAND (formerly ForestEthics Advocacy)
- Jon Mitchell is Vice-President, Environment & Sustainability at Cenovus Energy
- Alison Ronson is Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Northern Alberta Chapter
- Kevin Scoble is the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
- Christa Seaman is Emerging Regulatory Policy Issue Advisor at Shell Canada
- Richard Sendall has been Senior Vice President of Strategy and Government Relations at MEG Energy Corporation
- Arlene Strom is the Vice President Sustainability & Communications at Suncor Energy Inc.
- Lloyd Visser is Vice President, Environment and Sustainable Development at ConocoPhillips Canada