a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ottawa not winning friends for Oil Sands

It was quite a spectacle last week when delegations of provincial politicians, oil executives and environmentalists traveled to Ottawa for an audience with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the third most powerful American politician. You would think it is up to Pelosi to determine the future of the Alberta Oil Sands.

Then again, maybe it is.

Over her three-day visit to Ottawa, the U.S. Speaker also met with federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice. But Prentice and the rest of the federal government seemed to do their damnedest to be invisible, leaving it to Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach to defend the Oil Sands and speak publicly for Canada.

We all know where the federal government stands on the Oil Sands. The Tories are in favour. Conservative MPs on the Commons natural resources committee demonstrated this in June when they not only voted to suppress a report on often critical witness testimony on the Oil Sands, but to order every copy of the report destroyed.

With friends like that, the petroleum sector doesn't need enemies. What these Tory MPs have likely done is galvanize opposition to the Oil Sands and give Canadians the impression there is something nasty to hide.

The petroleum sector should be just as angry with the Conservatives as the environmentalists are.

Like the destruction of the Commons committee report, federal invisibility during last week's Pelosi visit made Stelmach and his province look defensive. In fact, the federal tactic of leaving Alberta on its own to defend the Oil Sands is about the last thing the petroleum sector needs.

It is understandable that the Tories would not want a national debate on the Oil Sands on the possible eve of an election. But that debate will likely come one way or other because of this resource's impact on the economy and the environment.

Leadership is part of governing and the federal government should start leading Canadians in developing a national consensus on the Oil Sands.

As pollster Nik Nanos has just noted, the Conservatives have been acting like an Opposition party in the last two elections. The time for that tactic is running out.

Waiting for the Americans to decide how the Oil Sands should be regulated is hardly leadership or good governance.

No comments:

Post a Comment