On Saturday, July 16, Canada's energy and mines ministers begin a four-day meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta, to start "Framing the future of energy and mines" in Canada.
Okay, maybe not the whole time in Kananaskis. Maybe more like a day and a half of the time... The agenda (PDF) says they start off in Calgary at the Stampede on the first day. Then on Sunday they take a small (800 kilometres or more) side trip to fly over a mine site and the tar sands in Fort McMurray. Monday morning they get to fly over another mine site, and then they make the flight and bus ride to the Kananaskis Lodge in time for lunch. Based on that travel schedule, it seems the ministers aren't all that worried about energy conservation — we'd love to know the carbon footprint of this meeting.
But the ministers' free-flying approach may have more to do with the corporate sponsors for this meeting than information gathering. Yes, you read that right, corporate sponsors for a meeting of Canadian elected officials. Formally, this meeting is being co-hosted by the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada. However, it appears times are tough, and the governments had to go to corporations to help pay the gas bills. As a result, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is proudly touted as a gold sponsor of the event, followed by 11 other associations and corporations all involved in the oil and gas industry identified as silver and bronze sponsors.
This kind of blatant corporate support for a ministerial meeting is shocking to even the most cynically minded and should be something the ethics commissioner looks into. Corporate sponsorship is not the norm for these kinds of meetings. It has only happened once before, in a meeting held in Newfoundland in 2007. How can our elected officials possibly claim to be unbiased and uninfluenced in their decision-making during this meeting? Why aren't they also doing a fly-by of Canada's largest wind farm near Fort McLeod, or taking a tour of the new bio-gas facility in Edmonton? Perhaps those initiatives didn't have the money to be gold sponsors so they've been left off the tour.
Canada's energy ministers need to remember that their biggest sponsors are actually Canadian taxpayers; we are the people they serve, not dirty oil and gas producers. Send an email to your minister of energy reminding him or her that Canada's energy ministers need to take us down a road that leads to clean, renewable energy and not a radical expansion of the fossil fuel industry with more leaky pipelines.