Monday, July 14, 2014

I’m all for transparency when it comes to foreign lobbying

I see that Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Ont.) has recently introduced Bill C-618, the Foreign Lobbying Transparency Act, in the House of Commons. This is timely indeed, considering multi-million dollar efforts by U.S.-based organizations to virtually embargo bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands.

Too often in Canada, environmental assessments have been exercises in promoting a particular political agenda. Objections to development sometimes have had little to do with real threats to the environment and far more to do with scuttling projects that seek to develop carbon-based energy resources.

For me, it is one thing to tolerate and respect the anti-resource-development sentiments of other Canadians, but quite another when you know the sentiments are financed and promoted by foreigners.

For those to whom Climate Change has become a religion (in the sense that Climate Change is an interest to which they ascribe supreme importance), no carbon-based energy resource project in Canada should ever be allowed to see the light of day. And, as soon as one undergoes an environmental assessment, foreign money flows in to finance lobbyists who line up to harangue and harass and otherwise clog up the process with repetitive and sometimes spurious objections.

Objectors even go so far as to bring in aging rock stars and foreign dignitaries to make speeches on cue to denigrate and discredit development of Alberta’s oil sands.

A case in point is the recent visit to Alberta by retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who called the oil sands “filth” and said Alberta’s bitumen production is the consequence of “negligence and greed.” And, earlier in the year, musician Neil Young claimed the oil sands area near Fort McMurray is like the World War II-ending devastation of Hiroshima.

This level of radical environmental rhetoric has no place in our political processes, and especially when it comes from the mouths of non-residents who won’t have to live with the consequences of the actions (or inaction) they promote.

Canada has the moral and legal right to develop its natural resources, whether or not they are carbon-based. Canada has the moral and legal obligation to do so in an environmentally responsible manner. Neither are such rights limited by what foreigners have to say nor are the obligations extended by them. Resource development within Canadian borders  is purely a domestic matter and we should expect foreigners to butt out and mind their own business.

It is of great importance that all Canadians are able to see whose interests are being represented and how much money is being spent to influence government policy decisions. Requiring organizations to disclose whether they receive significant amounts of foreign funding to impact advocacy and lobbying messages seems eminently sensible.

I wish the MP from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke the best of luck with Bill C-618.

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