|As a concession to having its environmental policies dictated to|
by the oil companies, Environment Canada's logo remained larger.
What would be the reaction? Environmentalists would be dancing in the streets.
The oil industry? Not so much.
The oil industry would denounce the move as the government putting the interests of environmentalists ahead of the economic well-being of Canadians. It would argue that the government should play a neutral role in weighing the proper balance between environmental stewardship and economic development.
But in Conservative Canada, the oil industry sets the environmental norms and the government facilitates it.
The news of the creation of the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance that will form a "collaborative hub" to share information and help advance research and technology to improve environmental practices sounds like great news on the surface. A so-called transparent commitment to deliver "best practices" to cleaning up the tailing ponds, reducing greenhouse gases and dealing with land and water issues by working with smaller firms, universities and the government.
Dan Wicklum, a high ranking bureaucrat for Environment Canada, will be the chairman of the Canadian Oil Sands Innonvation Alliance (COSIA) in one year assignment after which he'll return to Environment Canada. But as the Calgary Herald notes, he will be "answering to the companies who have placed him in charge."
As anyone who has ever worked in a large corporation will tell you, whenever the corporate headquarters asks that employees give suggestions on how to improve the "workplace environment" (AKA productivity), the detailed suggestion you enthusiastically put forward will be met with the response of "it's not economically feasible to do that."
Make no mistake, the oil industry has no intention of overhauling its practices. If some small firm or university scientist finds a cheap and cost-effective way to reduce pollution that would save them money from what they're currently doing, they'll do it. But "best practices" are those that are not going to chip away at their bottom line.
And what of the conflict of interest for Dan Wicklum? Will the projects that he's worked on during his time as chairman be scrutinized closely by others at Environment Canada or will they just be rubber stamped? The access he will provide in terms of contacts within the public service will give a strategic advantage over the environmental groups that may oppose these plans.
When Environment Canada is cutting its staff of 700 meteorologists, chemists, biologists and other scientists, can it really afford to send another to be subordinate to the oil companies?
We all know that the Harper government is little more than a tar sands lobby on trade missions.
Creating a revolving door between industry and government is just further evidence that the line has been blurred between the tar sands industry and the Canadian government.