Big Oil’s Kyoto Party

Harris whiz kid pulls strings at wine and shrimp fete

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Some of Ernie Eves’s top cabinetministers partied last week with Kyoto-bashers the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions, a lobby group with close ties to both Ralph Klein and the energy industry.And through a combo of stealth and strategy, I managed to crash the soiree.

It took place in the Queen’s Park dining hall and was a very chummy shrimp-and-wine gathering, a chance for members of the coalition — the Canadian Association of Oil Well Drilling Contractors, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, etc — to schmooze Tory heavies.

There were speeches by coalition organizers, and a particularly passionate Ontario energy minister, John Baird, made his anti-Kyoto rallying cry. Needless to say, the audience was very receptive. Baird’s parliamentary assistant, Scarborough MPP Steve Gilchrist, who at one time helped block developers’ plans for the Oak Ridges Moraine, was busy propping open doors with chairs to give relief to a very hot and stuffy room.

I couldn’t help remarking to him that perhaps the room was so unbearably hot because of climate change. He was not amused.

While Eves has been slightly slippery on just where he stands on Kyoto, it was interesting to learn that this meeting was organized by Guy Giorno, Mike Harris’s old chief of staff and ultimate Tory party insider. Giorno now works with National Public Relations (NPR), the coalition’s high-priced lobby firm.

Two days after the meeting, Giorno sent every MPP at Queen’s Park an e-mail suggesting what they might say in op-ed news pieces or letters to their constituents about Kyoto.

Then Liberal and NDP members, for whom the missive was obviously not intended, were sent a second e-mail that read, “Unfortunately, materials from the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions were sent to your office in error in a previous e-mail. I do apologize for any inconvenience.”

So now we have Mike Harris’s former number-one man trying to dictate environmental policy to our government members. It might make you wonder if the Eves government is really any different from Harris’s where the environment is concerned. It certainly doesn’t seem to be.

Then there’s Klein’s relationship with the coalition, which is kind of like that of an organized crime boss and his “legitimate business activities.”

They’ll deny any connection to each other, one operating above-ground while the other does its work in the shadows.

NPR’s Karen Bodirsky denies there is any relationship. “There is no connection,” she says.

But log onto Klein’s Web site and information on the coalition is item number one on his home page.

Klein’s anti-Kyoto message should not be warmly received here. Ontario, in fact, will have the more to gain than any other province from ratifying the accord, according to studies done by both the province and the feds. This is particularly true if this government fulfills its promise to close Ontario’s coal-fired electricity generating plants and switch to renewable energy sources like solar, wind power and small-scale hydro.

But instead, it seems environmental policy here is being decided at shrimp parties by Tory cronies whom the people of Ontario did not elect. Josh Matlow is a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.

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