Canada’s oil-sand lobbying efforts paying dividends in Europe, activists say

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

In response to international efforts to ban fuel from the Alberta oil sands, Canada has initiated a pan-European counter-attack that seems to be working.

A recent column in the Dominon Newspaper stated the Canadian government had organized several pro-oil sand lobby missions to Europe consisting of representatives from the departments of foreign affairs, natural resources, Environment Canada,= and the Alberta government.

The so-called "Oil Sands Team"  monitored negative media coverage, helped Canadian policymakers lobby European parliamentarians and organize trips to Alberta, worked to "enhance cooperation" with oil companies, and coordinated regular meetings between top European oil executives and Canadian politicians, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

According to environmental activists, Canada's lobbying efforts have been fruitful.

It seems U.K. officials now appear to be balking at European Union efforts to limit sales of oil derived from the controversial tar sands.

"It is extremely disappointing that the U.K. has caved in to pressure from Canada, which sees Europe as setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world to follow, potentially closing one market after another," Paul Monaghan, head of social goals and sustainability at the Co-op Financial Group told the Dominion.

"If  (the U.K.) really does want to be the greenest government ever, it must lead by example and not be swayed by aggressive Canadian lobbying," he added.

Alberta's oil sands, which hold the second-largest supply of oil after Saudi Arabia, have been widely criticized as the world's most environmentally destructive and carbon-intensive industrial project.

While very little Alberta fuel gets sold in Europe, any European edicts to limit oil sand sales could set a global precedent devastating the economy of Canada's fourth-largest province.

In 2010, the Alberta government earned $4.6 billion in gas and oil royalties. Some have predicted by 2044, at current levels of growth, government revenues from oil could equal $67.5 billion.

A draft fuel proposal is expected to be finalized by the European Union in the fall.

With that much money at stake, there's no doubt Canada's oil industry officials will pull out all the stops to keep the oil flowing.

(CP Photo)