03/08/2012 11:09 EST | Updated 05/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada on Tar Sands: "Dig Baby Dig"


Over recent years our best policy analysts, experienced strategists, technical experts, and campaigners have found themselves toiling with the never-ending barrage of attacks by the federal government to counter policies and actions that challenge the reckless expansion and exploitation of the Alberta tar sands.

The Canadian government, along with industry, has become experts at fighting battles over technical details and muddying the waters on policies and projects that in an era of dangerous climate change should be no brainers. Unfortunately these battles are just pieces of a much bigger puzzle -- a coordinated and strategic effort to ensure no door are closed to the highly polluting tar sands.

In a new report released today, the Government of Canada's international tar sands advocacy strategy is revealed, based on hundreds of pages of documents obtained through freedom of information laws. This push has succeeded in killing or delaying both domestic and international policy to tackle climate change, and is costing us our international reputation and moral integrity as some of the most vulnerable populations in the world, including in our own country, suffer from the increasingly devastating impacts of a warming planet.

Along with the launch of the report, over 20 candle light vigils were held last night across the United States and Europe appealing to the Canada we used to know to once again show leadership in the global fight against climate change.

The Canadian government has worked hand-in-glove with the tar sands industry to spend taxpayer dollars on a laundry list of tactics ranging from expensive public relations strategies, to trade threats, to hundreds of lobby meetings with foreign decision makers all in order to lock us into a rapid expansion of the tar sands that would hold us on course for a devastating six degrees or more of global warming.

This report makes it clear that every attack on environmental groups, every blanket characterization of our nation's aboriginal groups as adversaries, every trumped up technical argument against a foreign clean energy policy, and every single (too long to list) failure of our government to take climate change seriously, cannot be seen in isolation. These actions, as disturbing as they are in and of themselves, are symptoms of something much bigger.

While we celebrate delays and challenges to policies and infrastructure like pipelines, they also celebrate time bought to come up with more outrageous battles they can pick in order to ensure there are no immediate and definitive consequences to their reckless actions.

Canadians are by and large ready for action on climate change; provinces, municipalities and individuals are leading the charge in stepping up where the federal government is failing -- but it will take much more to turn the tide. Countries that are trying to do the right thing must stand up to Canadian government lobbying and call nonsense when it comes to Ottawa's claims about cleaner tar sands or higher environmental standards.

If they were true, something meaningful would be happening -- we would have regulations on our fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution, and the Canadian government would not have decided international action on climate change was a bad thing.

The Canadian government is on the wrong side of the global fight for a safe climate and a safe future and they know it. We all know that there will come a day when we address the climate crises; the question is what will have been sacrificed if we fail to do it fast enough.

We must continue to fight for the Canada we once knew, a country that was proud of being an international citizen and one that showed leadership during challenging global times. But, until we see that Canada again, we must understand that the Canadian government's current tar sands agenda is clear, organized, and well-funded.

Every government action is part and parcel of its "dig baby dig" mentality, and until things change we need to call it like it is -- sacrificing our children's future so that the tar sands industry can make an even more obscene profit today.