EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour today released new evidence that sheds more light on the energy industry's extraordinary influence over government public communication plans on shale gas and water use (copy of the documents can be found here).
On Monday, the Lobbyist Registrar released a report clearing the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) of wrongdoing in the case. But that report didn't consider the new evidence released today, so the AFL is calling for a new investigation.
"The newly released documents show that CAPP took the lead in talks with the government to develop a communications strategy that both industry and government would use to spin the public on shale gas water use," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers. "The documents show that senior government officials worked in concert with CAPP to shape public opinion on shale gas and water use, and that they were prepared to hide their collaboration from the public."
The Alberta Federation of Labour obtained the documents through a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP). The heavily redacted documents show that CAPP told the government to develop a public communications plan for shale gas and water use and the highest levels of government obliged.
"The Registrar of the Lobbyist Registry did not have access to these documents during his initial investigation of CAPP's lobbying activities," says McGowan. "So we're calling for another investigation based on this new evidence which has recently come to light."
"We filed FOIP requests for these documents because we've been worried for some time that the energy industry is calling too many of the shots for government and that government has forgotten its role as protector of the public interest," says McGowan. "These documents suggest our concerns are well-founded."
"It's troubling that the energy industry has this much influence over our government. Even more troubling are the lengths the government will seemingly go to help industry to shape and change public opinion rather than leading with policies for responsible development."
"The documents show that four government ministries and the supposedly independent Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) joined with the energy industry to develop a secret public communications plan on a resource that's obviously lucrative and but also potentially controversial," says McGowan.
"It's the government's duty to consult with relevant stakeholders, including stakeholder from the energy industry," adds McGowan "But the new documents show that what went on here goes far beyond consultation. What they show is that the line between government and the energy industry has become so blurred that it's virtually indistinguishable," says McGowan.
"The government mishandled the oil-sands file by spinning, foot dragging and allowing industry to set the agenda instead of having a plan developed in partnership with the public for the responsible development of the resource. It looks like the government didn't learn any lessons and is set to make the same mistakes with shale gas as it did with the oil sands. Namely, the government of Alberta has abdicated its responsibilities to an industry lobby group," concluded McGowan.
• Click here for backgrounder document
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888 (cell)