Conservatives vs. Environmentalists [Updated]

As you may know, pipelines are pretty big news in Canada right now. Not only were there plans, now scuttled, to build a pipeline going south, but there are still plans to build a pipeline going to the west coast, allowing for easy shipment to China. Obviously, not all Canadians support the project, and there are a number of groups opposing the development. One such organization is ForestEthics, a division of Tides Canada.

Andrew Frank, the former Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, has now released an open letter to Canadians, making some significant claims against the Conservative government:

As I have detailed in a sworn affidavit, no less than three senior managers with TidesCanada and ForestEthics (a charitable project of Tides Canada), have informed me, as theSenior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, that Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan,was informed by the Prime Minister’s Office, that ForestEthics is considered an “Enemy of the Government of Canada,” and an “Enemy of the people of Canada.”

This language was apparently part of a threat by the Prime Minister’s Office to challengethe charitable status of Tides Canada if it did not agree to stop funding ForestEthics,specifically its work opposing oilsands expansion and construction of oilsandstanker/pipeline routes in Canada.

There was a look of fear and disbelief on my fellow staff members’ faces the day they weretold our own government had labelled them enemies of the state. Our administrationcoordinator had tears in her eyes. In the days that followed, our employees couldn’t sleepwell. They lost their appetites, and they began to fear for their own personal safety and civilliberties, and those of their families and loved ones. They began looking over theirshoulder, out of fear and paranoia, because their own government might be watching them.

Tides Canada is a registered intervenor in the official review process for the pipeline, and Mr. Frank objects to the “anti-terrorism language” that is being employed against Canadians merely exercising their Charter right to freedom of expression. If Mr. Frank’s charges are true, this is a fairly serious situation.

The Conservatives have not been shy about employing a war of rhetoric in defending the pipelines. The oil we extract from our tar sands is dubbed “ethical oil” (even if we’re just going to ship to China), and they have railed against “foreign money” pouring into environmental groups opposing these pipelines – insinuating that opposition to the project is un-Canadian (ignoring, of course, all the “foreign money” that is working to get the project cleared). Nonetheless, everything they have done so far has been above board… well, it’s been politics as usual, which is pretty scummy. Legal, but scummy.

There’s no confirmation, yet, that the allegations are true. I imagine that there is an element of truth in Mr. Frank’s letter, but I doubt the matter is exactly as he describes, because (a) I don’t think the Tories are that evil; and (b) I really doubt they’re that stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts that the Tories will use every weapon available to them to get this project going, but I’ll need more evidence before I believe they’re lobbing such threats. Even when they went after KAIROS, they didn’t go after their charitable status.

Update: Naturally, the Conservatives deny this, but so, too, does Tides Canada CEO Ross MacMillan. From the Edomonton Journal:

“Tides Canada does not speak about our conversations with government, partners, the private sector or other parties, just as we don’t make public internal discussion with projects and grantees,” McMillan said.

“But I will say that Mr. Frank did not take part in any conversations we’ve had with government and his account of our conversations with government is inaccurate.”

This doesn’t mean the Tories aren’t misbehaving, but it casts a lot of doubt on the validity of Mr. Frank’s claim.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


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