Last week, Enbridge pipelines announced on its blog that it would be showing its latest ads on Tim’s TV (the flatscreen televisions behind the service counter). Almost immediately, online activists seized on the opportunity.
When former environment minister Jim Prentice held his introductory lunch with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson in November 2009, Prentice described to Jacobson how he had been shocked during a visit to Norway to find heated opposition to the Alberta oilsands during a public debate over state-owned StatOil ASA’s investment there.
This information was contained in a cable from Jacobson, which was obtained by WikiLeaks and posted by a Norwegian paper.
Prentice was clearly feeling the heat from a global campaign by environmental organizations to frame oilsands oil as “dirty” because of its energy-intensive extraction, which make for Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“The public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada’s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage,” the cable reported.
So when influential Washington, DC, political consultant Richard Berman talked about strategy and tactics to the oil and gas industry’s Western Energy Alliance in Colorado Springs this past June, he didn’t mince words.
“This is an endless war,” Berman said.
The secret tape was published in the New York Times a few weeks ago, released by a displeased oil industry executive, on condition of anonymity.
As he urged industry reps to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, Berman also made one emphatic point:
“People always ask me one question all the time, ‘How do I know that I won't be found out as a supporter of what you're doing?’ We run all of this stuff through non-profit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don't know who supports us. We've been doing this for 20-something years in this regard.”
The Western Energy Alliance, at whose June meeting Berman laid out his cold-blooded strategy, describes membership as “an investment in the future of the independent oil and gas community in the West.” Its members throughout the U.S. and Canada “share and support our commitment to improve business conditions, expand opportunities and move the industry forward.”
Today Vivian Krause published an opinion piece in The Province claiming “a vote for Vision is a vote for U.S. oil interests.” So, you might be wondering: just who is Vivian Krause? We’re so glad you asked…
An essential component of all public relations campaigns is having the right messenger— a credible, impassioned champion of your cause.
While many PR pushes fail to get off the ground, those that really catch on — the ones that gain political attention and result in debates and senate inquiries — almost always have precisely the right poster child.
And in the federal government and oil industry’s plight to discredit environmental groups, the perfect poster child just so happens to be Vivian Krause.
On the eve of an international climate change summit of government leaders in New York, Canada is being challenged about its own domestic record in addressing the heat-trapping pollution that contributes to global warming.
Here’s a historical timeline of some of the major climate change policies, statements and related decisions made by Canada since 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected to form a government.
From a pledge to introduce a carbon tax in 2007 to internal debates about climate change science, this timeline covers the promises and the action by the Canadian government in recent years.
When Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart filed an official complaint with Elections Canada, he did a lot more than question the implications of the Ethical Oil Institute’s collusion with the Conservative Party of Canada: he called national attention to the corrosive effect oil money has had on Canadian politics in recent years.
“At the broadest level,” Stewart told DeSmog Canada via e-mail, “we are trying to rebalance the playing field between money and people power in Canadian politics. You can never eliminate the influence of money on politics, but you can limit it and make it more transparent.”
Greenpeace’s request for an investigation is based on the fact that corporate donations to political parties are banned in federal politics — yet money raised by the Ethical Oil Institute appears to have been spent on advertising and other activities developed and implemented by people directly involved in the Conservative Party of Canada. The institute does not disclose its funding sources, but its website states it does “accept donations from Canadian individuals and companies, including those working to produce Ethical Oil.”
These are the words the famous Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh told DeSmogBlog and DeSmog Canada founder, president and contributor James Hoggan one afternoon in a conversation about environmental advocacy and the collapse of productive public discourse.
Over the course of three years James (Jim) Hoggan has engaged the minds of communications specialists, philosophers, leading public intellectuals and spiritual leaders while writing a book designed to address the bewildering question: “why, when we know so much about the global environmental crisis, are we doing so little?”
Hoggan recently recounted some of the insights he has gained into this question when he spoke at the Walrus Talks “The Art of Conversation.”
He begins with the basic axiom shared by cognitive scientist Dan Kahan, “just as you can pollute the natural environment, you can pollute public conversations.” From that the logic follows – if we’re serious about resolving our environmental problems, we are going to have to attend equally to the state of our public discourse.
In Canada, says Hoggan, we face particular challenges when it comes to polluted pubic conversations, especially with the heightened tenor of rhetoric regarding environmentalism and energy issues surrounding the oilsands and proposed pipelines.
“The ethical oil, foreign funded radicals campaign,” he says, “has made Canadians less able to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively, and think things through collectively.”
Jim has written extensively about what he calls the “Polluted Public Square,” a concept he is refining for his upcoming book of that title. Jim's expertise in the world of public relations puts him at a particular advantage when parsing out just how public conversations are used and abused to shape public perception, especially on controversial topics. But more crucially, he sees the way the public is disengaging from the social fora our democratic institutions rely upon. The answer to the question Jim has been seeking - why when we know so much are we doing so little? - has to do with a widespread case of social mistrust that points back to the fundamental problem of the polluted public square.
Jim had the opportunity to delve a little more into his research and how it all ties into the upcoming event The Art of Conversation in his discussion with Pamela McCall. Listen below or scroll down for a transcript of the interview.
In testifying before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to deal with charity provisions in the 2012 Federal Budget, Jamie Ellerton, the Executive Director of Ethical Oil, offered a succinct definition of charity. “If you need to debate whether or not something is charitable,” he told the House, “it is not.”
Ellertonʼs definition of charity, takes 400 years worth of legal debate on the definition of charity, and wraps it up so tightly, makes it so simple, that one would wonder why it ever need be debated at all. If his were the working definition, charitable work would be limited to such tasks as feeding the hungry and planting trees.
Charities would have no say in making change to end hunger or protecting trees that are already standing. They would be mute players, picking up the pieces when government fails to protect the public interest. It is all too clear that the simple definition might be preferred by a government intent on ending conversations - or at least controlling them.