Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is making no apologies after the Globe and Mail revealed that he addressed and his officials took part in a day-long meeting with fossil executives April 11 to coordinate strategy for the upcoming federal election.
“Top Conservative politicians met with oil industry executives at a private conference to map out strategy for ousting Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, in a sign of growing collaboration between the Alberta-based sector and its political backers ahead of the federal election this fall,” the Globe reported Thursday. On Friday, Scheer responded that “I meet with people all the time. I meet with different representatives of many different types of industries.”
Later in the day, he reposted video of himself participating in a pro-fossil truck convoy in Alberta last December. “While Justin Trudeau’s Liberals want to phase out Canada’s energy workers, I am not ashamed of fighting for them—and it’s no secret,” he wrote.
But “the closed-door event reflects the deep ties between federal Conservatives and more activist elements of the Alberta-based oil industry that blame Liberal policies on issues such as pipelines and climate change for job losses and investor apathy that have dogged the sector, despite a broader recovery in energy markets,” the Globe wrote. The session “brought together some of Calgary’s most prominent business leaders and high-profile Conservatives and their operatives at the invitation of a little-known pro-oil advocacy group called the Modern Miracle Network.”
The group says its goal is to “shift the conversation” on energy and motivate Canadians to embrace “the miracle of modern hydrocarbons,” its website states. The Globe lists several participants who are board members of both the Network and Canada’s leading fossil lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“The agenda makes clear the event was highly political,” the Globe stated. “Federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer delivered a keynote address, the document showed. His national campaign director, Hamish Marshall, and veteran Conservative organizer Mark Spiro spoke on a panel about ‘rallying the base’ by using friendly interest groups that operate independently of the party.”
Fossil lobby groups “plan to participate actively in the coming federal election to push an agenda that includes more pipelines, lower taxes, and less regulation,” the paper adds. “Industry supporters have been energized by the election of Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney, whose United Conservative Party swept to power with a populist campaign that stoked industry grievances and turned on a hard-line pledge to sue environmental critics, cut corporate taxes, and roll back policies aimed at combatting climate change. Some hope those same tactics can deliver a federal Conservative triumph this fall.”
“It is very much political, in terms of the action steps that people want to take,” said former Alberta cabinet minister Gary Mar, who attended the session as CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Alberta. “Let me say it this way: that like Newton’s third law, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” [Let us say it this way: Which is the action, and which is the reaction?—Ed.]
The strategy meeting featured sessions with titles like Litigation as a Tool and Paths to Federal Election Victory, the Globe reported, with CAPP President Tim McMillan introducing the lead presenter for the election victory panel. “While we are not politically affiliated, we are unabashed energy-discussion promoters,” CAPP Vice-President of Communications Stacey Hatcher told the Globe. “That is our role as an advocacy association for the [fossil] energy industry.”
But Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt questioned whether it made sense for the Conservatives and their fossil backers to alienate voters in battleground provinces like British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
“I know Kenney’s the big hero now,” he told the Globe. “But if Scheer wants to go down that road and basically toss away environmental concerns, that worked in Alberta where the economy has been so bad, but the rest of the country’s economy isn’t like that. Are they going to listen to a leader who basically abandons the environment and promises that he’s just going to ram stuff through?”
On Twitter, federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna scorched Scheer and his allies for trying to block climate action. “Straight from Harper’s playbook: Andrew Scheer has been caught scheming behind closed doors with wealthy executives to gut environmental protection laws, silence critics, and make pollution free again,” she wrote. “We’re working with Canadians everywhere to find common ground and put solutions into action that protect nature and fight climate change. Meanwhile, Scheer and his powerful friends plan to slap critics with lawsuits and smear campaigns.”McKenna received pushback from meeting participant, oilpatch financier, and former Dragon’s Den panelist Brett Wilson, who distinguished himself last year by suggesting that Trans Mountain pipeline opponents be hanged for treason, and that British Columbia New Democrat MLAs be bought off to leave their party and support the project. “I was at this retreat,” Wilson tweeted. “Scheer gave a standard political speech. There were several senior liberals speaking. Along with several First Nation leaders, etc. The goal was to educate and inform on all matters related to energy. You just don’t have a clue, do you….”