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 with Rob Miskosky

Holding a Province Hostage

I found it amusing when newspaper headlines across the country screamed that Alberta had funded nearly $55,000.00 towards the making of an anti-oilsands film titled Dirty Oil.

Premier Ed Stelmach was clearly upset that taxpayer money was used to “help fund a film that attacks the province” but said that Alberta wouldn’t get involved in censorship.

Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett suggested there would be a review of the program but also agreed that the government wouldn’t play a censorship role.

However, let us step back and look at this for a moment.


How could the denial of funding for a film that blatantly attacks the province and its government be considered censorship?

Is it not the government’s job to protect its interests regardless of where they are, especially at home?

Apparently not.

It seems ridiculous the Alberta Tories would spend millions of dollars to promote the oilsands while at the same time handing out money to filmmakers to produce an anti-oilsands film.

But, if you stand back and look at how this same type of funding is given over and over again to environmental organizations and animal-rights groups that blackmail governments and big business on a regular basis, only then can you start to realize that the funding of $55,000.00 to a low budget filmmaker is merely a small drop of water in a big ocean. The problem here is that it happened at a time when groups around the world and at home are targeting Alberta’s oilsands.

But if there are concerns, they need to be addressed. That’s just the way the ball bounces when what you do has an impact; whether it be for better or for worse, somebody ain’t going to like it.

Governments and big business have been funding projects and agreeing to “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” partnerships with environmental groups for years.

And seeing that Alberta is home to an environmental army that influences everything that takes place in this province, including public policy, there is plenty of reason for “paying off” the zealots. 

Let’s look at a couple of recent announcements that clearly smell of the ransom being paid by the hostage.

On March 22, 2010, Shell Canada announced, “Recipients of this year’s Shell Environmental Fund major grants are Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Yellowstone to Yukon and Building Environmental Aboriginal Human Resources (BEAHR). Each will receive $100,000 for their projects.”

At first blush, it appears as though Shell is doing its part in helping protect the environment, and so they should. However, those of you who follow this column probably shuddered when you read the name Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y)—a name that certainly doesn’t belong on the same list that hosts grassroots organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited.

Why would Shell—and our provincial government for that matter—help fund an organization the embraces The Wildlands Project concept? A concept that would see 50 percent of North America preserved or turned into wild animal habitat with heavy restrictions on human activity.

Places such as this will be off limits should the Wildlands Project succeed in Alberta.

While Y2Y’s literature presents a perfectly wrapped up box of environmental beauty, once opened its gift is quite the opposite with massive restrictions to public lands access, the end of resource extraction, and a serious threat to private property ownership.

Shell is either oblivious to this fact and obviously doesn’t research the groups they give money to very deeply, lest we forget Y2Y was born from The Wildlands Project that was the brainstorm of Reed Noss, Michael Soule and eco-terrorist Dave Foreman. Foreman would later summarize the Wildlands Project by saying, “It is not enough to preserve the roadless, undeveloped country remaining. We must re-create wilderness in large regions: move out the cars and civilized people, dismantle the roads and dams, reclaim the plowed land and clearcuts, reintroduce extirpated species.”

Why would Shell fund such a group?

E-mails to Shell’s Environmental Fund contact have gone unanswered and their Environmental Fund website now states, “The Shell Environmental Fund website is temporarily unavailable. Please come back in winter of 2010 when further details will be posted.”

Another recent hostage taking in May of this year was that of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, an agreement between the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canopy, David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, Pew Environment Group International Boreal Conservation Campaign, and Ivey Foundation, with 21 forest companies.

Again, at first blush it appears to be an agreement benefitting caribou by the protection of caribou habitat with the suspension of logging. However, one must wonder why so many forest companies would agree to jump into bed with those so determined to see their demise.

And then it jumps right out at you and the hostage is once again paying the ransom. Only this time it is up front, center, and clearly posted on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement website, not hidden away in private discussions or deep within a website: “Another component is the suspension, by participating environmental organizations, of divestment and “do not buy” campaigns targeting the Boreal operations and products of companies participating in the Boreal Agreement.”

There must still be some bad taste left in the mouths of the member groups of the Forest Products Association of Canada after that ransom was paid.

Alberta is an environmentalist’s dream come true with the tar sands, huge natural gas and coal reserves, forestry, a cattle industry, and agriculture dependent on irrigation in many regions of the province. There is little wonder an estimated 300 environmentalist groups have taken up residence here. Granted, many of these groups have pure intentions at heart, others not so, but rather an ultimate goal that brings us closer to the Wildlands Project that includes the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and others, including the Big Wild. Unfortunately these are the groups that are the best funded, often by our own government and big business that would be better off ensuring their dollars are appropriately spent on projects that don’t have ambiguous intentions.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig. ■

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