Stephen Harper withholds details of government ads for big oil MINISTER WANTS TO SPEND UP TO $16.5 MILLION ON ADVERTISING Print
Earth News
Written by Joan Russow
Sunday, 04 August 2013 05:51

by Editors Pipeline observer  26 May 2013 


The Harper government is declining to explain how and where it is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on advertising to promote oil, gas and pipeline companies as well as other Canadian natural resources.


Facing nearly four hours of questions from opposition MPs this week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver also declined to provide specifics on a training program, worth up to $500,000, for his department’s scientists and other officials, “designed to help them communicate with the public and to do so in a way that is accessible to the public.”

Overall, Oliver said his department wanted to spend up to $16.5 million on advertising in the upcoming year, with details made available “at the appropriate time.”

“This is a critical moment in the development of our natural resources, and therefore we have allocated a significant amount of money for advertising,” Oliver told a special committee studying spending estimates in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening.

NDP natural resources critic Peter Julian said that the new spending represents a 7,000 per cent increase in advertising budgets at Natural Resources Canada since 2010-2011.

Oliver said a key part of the latest advertising was aimed at promoting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a multibillion dollar project proposed by Alberta-based TransCanada, that would link Canada’s oilsands industry to refineries on the gulf coast of Texas. Canadian and American oil companies are lobbying the Obama government to approve the pipeline in order to support oilsands expansion and jobs.

Oliver declined to say how much money was being spent in the U.S., or in Europe where the Harper government is lobbying against climate change legislation requiring a reduction in heat-trapping greenhouse gases from transportation fuels. He also declined to say whether any advertising money would be spent to promote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

In March of 2010, federal and Alberta government officials met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” for oilsands outreach and communications as part of a renewed strategy — promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former staffer, Bruce Carson — to “turn up the volume” on public relations and show that “issues are being addressed and we have the right attitude,” according to internal federal records previously released to Postmedia News.

The NDP’s Julian denounced the multimillion-dollar campaign, describing it as “political advertising.” He also criticized the need to spend taxpayer dollars to train scientists on public speaking, in the context of an ongoing investigation by a parliamentary watchdog looking into allegations that the government is muzzling its scientists from speaking publicly about their research.

“The idea that there would be some kind of formal media muzzling of scientists is something that most Canadians would profoundly disagree with,” said Julian.

Liberal natural resources critic Marc Garneau also challenged Oliver to come clean on potential impacts of spills and accidents of diluted oilsands crude in the Pacific Ocean.

Nearly three years after a major spill of diluted heavy oil from the oilsands in Michigan, Alberta-based Enbridge is still facing orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the remaining pollution. In Canada, Oliver said, government scientists were studying the issue and didn’t have answers.

“I said they are conducting research,” said Oliver. “How would I know what the precise results of that research would be?”

But Garneau said that the government should have these answers if it wants to promote development projects such as pipelines to the west coast to expand exports of Canadian oil overseas.

“This is irresponsible,” said Garneau. “First you do your science.”

Opposition MPs also attempted to question Oliver’s grasp of climate-change science in the wake of recent comments casting doubt on scientific evidence that humans are contributing to global warming that could cause irreversible damage to the planet’s ecosystems.

When asked if he believed recently observed above-average global temperatures confirmed that climate change was occurring, Oliver spent a few seconds shuffling through papers on his desk before agreeing.

“I do not know what all this belief business is about,” he said in response to a question from Linda Duncan, an NDP MP from Edmonton. “We have said that climate change is a pressing global problem, and we are acting to deal with it. The nature of our policy response is different from that of the opposition parties.”

Natural Resources Canada told Postmedia News on Wednesday that it would try to answer questions about its public relations and communications training spending as soon as possible.

The department subsequently emailed Postmedia News explaining that details of the $16.5 million in advertising would be published at some point in the future. It also said that the special training program for scientists and staff was required under the government’s public relations policy and that the program’s budget would not exceed $400,000 at Natural Resources Canada.

via Stephen Harper withholds details of government ads for big oil |

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