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Why Should Canadian Taxpayers Fund Harper's $65,000 Keystone XL Advertising Trip?

Posted: 10/17/2013 6:11 pm

The hotel rental for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s September visit to New York City cost Canadian taxpayers a total of $56,582.91 according to documents recently released by CTV News.

"Canada and the U.S. are making important progress on enhancing trade, travel and investment flows between our two countries, including securing our borders, speeding up trade and travel, modernizing infrastructure in integrated sectors of the North American economy, and harmonizing regulations," Harper said at the event. "But there is much more that can be done, and must be done, to make our economic relationship more productive and seamless."

The event, organized by the Canadian American Business Council, gave Harper the opportunity to tell an audience of American business executives that he wouldn't "take no for an answer" on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, planned to carry tar sands crude from Alberta to oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hotel bill for the luxurious New York Palace Hotel, which was mistakenly sent to CTV's Washington bureau, suggests Harper's speaking engagement was a staged promotional gathering for the Keystone XL, rather that a typical guest speaker event which are usually paid for by the host.

The hotel charges include coffee services for $6,650.00, room rental for $33,500.00 and audio visual services of $14,709.15. An overall service charge for the room and coffee came to $9,234.50.

According to CTV, the event was co-hosted with the Canadian American Business Council, which claimed to "share" the costs for the event with the Harper Government. Maryscott Greenwood, senior advisor for the Council said, "the costs were shared... we paid for pieces of it."

On their website the Canadian American Business Council claims to be "the voice of business in the world's most prosperous relationship. Established in 1987 in Washington, D.C., the Council is a non-profit, non-partisan, issues-oriented organization dedicated to elevating the private sector perspective on issues that affect our two nations, Canada and the United States."

Membership to the Council requires a $5,500 annual fee, with conference sponsorships running up to $25,000 per event. Members of the Council include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Embassy, the Government of Alberta and TransCanada among many other major oil and gas companies.

In 2012, the Council listed "Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring Canadian crude oil to the U.S. gulf refineries" in its top ten "list of issues".

The Council's Washington offices are located inside a major law and lobbing firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, LLP, that represents TransCanada's Keystone XL project.

Andrew Shaw, who works for the Council, is also a registered lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline with McKenna, Long & Aldridge. Shaw was hired by TransCanada to lobby on the topic of "permitting issues regarding the Keystone XL pipeline," lobbying disclosure documents show.

According to further lobbyist documents, Shaw was also hired by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canada's largest oil and gas lobby firm, to speak with members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives about American environmental legislation or policies that might have implications on the development of Canada's tar sands.

A recent white paper report released by DeSmog Canada shows TransCanada has spent $2.78 million on in-company lobbyists and $1.26 million on U.S. based lobby firms, including McKenna, Long & Aldridge, since 2010.

The white paper also shows that since 2010-2011 the Harper Government’s spending of taxpayer funds to promote the tar sands and Canada's environmental performance has increased by 7000 per cent with plans to further increase in the 2013-2014 year.

For more information on lobbying for the Keystone XL, see this backgrounder put together by Friends of the Earth or read about the pipeline on DeSmogblog.com.

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  • The 181 million metric tons of (CO2e) from Keystone XL is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars. This is more cars than are currently registered on the entire West Coast (California, Washington, and Oregon), plus Florida, Michigan, and New York – combined.

  • Between 2015 and 2050, the pipeline alone would result in emissions of 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e. This amount is greater than the 2011 total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the United States.

  • If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would be responsible for emissions equal to that of 51 coal-fired power plants.

  • The International Energy Agency has said that two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid a 2 degree C temperature rise.

  • U.S. demand for oil has declined since 2005 by 2.25 million barrels per day or the equivalent of almost three Keystone XL pipelines.

  • More on the oilsands and Canada’s environment:

  • Syncrude Upgrader and Oil Sands

    The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the oil sands consumes far more oil and energy than conventional oil and produces almost twice as much carbon. Each barrel of oil requires 3-5 barrels of fresh water from the neighboring Athabasca River. About 90% of this is returned as toxic tailings into the vast unlined tailings ponds that dot the landscape. Syncrude alone dumps 500,000 tons of toxic tailings into just one of their tailings ponds everyday.

  • Boreal Forest and Coast Mountains / Atlin Lake, British Columbia | 2001

    This area, located in the extreme northwest of British Columbia, marks the western boundary of the Boreal region. On the border of the Yukon and Southeast Alaska, the western flank of these mountains descends into Alaska's Tongass Rainforest and British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Far from the oil sands, the greatest remaining coastal temperate and marine ecosystem is imminently threatened by the proposal to build a 750-mile pipeline to pump 550,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the coast. Once there, it would be shipped through some of the most treacherous waters, virtually assuring an ecological disaster at some point in the future.

  • Tailings Pond in Winter, Abstract #2 / Alberta Tar Sands | 2010

    Even in the extreme cold of the winter, the toxic tailings ponds do not freeze. On one particularly cold morning, the partially frozen tailings, sand, liquid tailings and oil residue, combined to produce abstractions that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock canvas.

  • Aspen and Spruce | Northern Alberta | 2001

    Photographed in late autumn in softly falling snow, a solitary spruce is set against a sea of aspen. The Boreal Forest of northern Canada is perhaps the best and largest example of a largely intact forest ecosystem. Canada's Boreal Forest alone stores an amount of carbon equal to ten times the total annual global emissions from all fossil fuel consumption.

  • Tar Sands at Night #1 | Alberta Oil Sands | 2010

    Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.

  • Dry Tailings #2 | Alberta Tar Sands | 2010

    In an effort to deal with the problem of tailings ponds, Suncor is experimenting with dry tailings technology. This has the potential to limit, or eliminate, the need for vast tailings ponds in the future and lessen this aspect of the oil sands' impact.

  • Tailings Pond Abstract #2 | Alberta Tar Sands / 2010

    So large are the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds that they can be seen from space. It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and on to Ottawa, a distance of over 2,000 miles. In this image, the sky is reflected in the toxic and oily waste of a tailings pond.

  • Confluence of Carcajou River and Mackenzie River | Mackenzie Valley, NWT | 2005

    The Caracajou River winds back and forth creating this oxbow of wetlands as it joins the Mackenzie flowing north to the Beaufort Sea. This region, almost entirely pristine, and the third largest watershed basin in the world, will be directly impacted by the proposed Mackenzie Valley National Gas Pipeline to fuel the energy needs of the Alberta Oil Sands mega-project.

  • Black Cliff | Alberta Oil Sands | 2005

    Oil sands pit mining is done in benches or steps. These benches are each approximately 12-15 meters high. Giant shovels dig the oil sand and place it into heavy hauler trucks that range in size from 240 tons to the largest trucks, which have a 400-ton capacity.

  • Oil Sands Upgrader in Winter| Alberta Oil Sands | 2010

    The Alberta oil sands are Canada's single largest source of carbon. They produce about as much annually as the nation of Denmark. The refining of the tar-like bitumen requires more water and uses almost twice as much energy as the production of conventional oil. Particularly visible in winter, vast plumes of toxic pollution fill the skies. The oil sands are so large they create their own weather systems.

  • Boreal Forest and Wetland | Athabasca Delta Northern Alberta | 2010

    Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta oil sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. It is threatened both by the massive water consumption of the tar sands and its toxic tailings ponds.

  • Tar Pit #3

    This network of roads reminded me of a claw or tentacles. It represents for me the way in which the tentacles of the tar sands reach out and wreak havoc and destruction. Proposed pipelines to American Midwest, Mackenzie Valley, and through the Great Bear Rainforest will bring new threats to these regions while the pipelines fuel new markets and ensure the proposed five fold expansion of the oil sands.

 

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