Canada's UK High Commissioner: Tar Sands "a Totemic Issue Hitting Directly on Brand Canada"

An email obtained by Friends of the Earth details discussions between British and Canadian diplomats, in which Gordon Campbell, Canada's High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, says the tar sands are “a totemic issue, hitting directly on Brand Canada.”

The comment is ill-timed as Alberta officials, currently on a whirlwind tour of Europe, work to convince EU government officials that tar sands oil is no more carbon intensive than other forms of fossil fuels. Oil derived from Alberta's tar sands comes with a high carbon price tag, emitting 20 percent more climate change pollution than light crude oils.

This spring the European Union will issue a report expected to set a higher carbon tax on tar sands oil than on conventional oil. The Alberta government has responded with intensive lobbying in a, perhaps misplaced, effort to manage bitumen's international reputation.

In a recent letter to Jose Manuel Borroso, President of the European Commission, Alberta's Premier Alison Redford claimed the EU's proposed carbon tax, “…is designed to discriminate uniquely against Alberta's energy production.”

Alberta's efforts, however, may be doing more harm than good.

The news outlet, Euractiv, has one Member of the European Parliament on the record saying the latest comment by Campbell, along with the Alberta government's aggressive lobbying, is hurting Canada's image in the eyes of the international community.


Yeah, how is it that the High Commissioner wasn't on the same page as the Harper government and the joint PR strategy? I wonder if there are fissures at the top? Or maybe Kevin's right - Campbell never imagined those words would go public.

Oh, Canada.