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Canadian Gov't Targets US Journalists in Keystone XL Approval Scheme

Newly released cables show Canada's Keystone XL's "glossy PR strategy"

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Climate activists draw attention to the devastating impact that opening up Canadian tar sands will have on the planet. (Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr)

Canada's Harper government is systematically targeting American journalists in an "elaborate" scheme to promote approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, newly released diplomatic cables reveal.

Nearly 1,000 pages of heavily-redacted emails released to Toronto-based Environmental Defence group, reveal an "elaborate strategy" that includes weekly "war-room" meetings, heavy monitoring of media coverage and protest groups, and an "outreach program" specifically focused on winning allies among American reporters.

 Postmedia News reports:

The records revealed several attempts, over a two-week period in August 2011, to reach out to various journalists from major publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and an influential trade publication, E & E Daily, as part of a government program to “develop Canada’s network of reporters covering energy issues” and to “support energy objectives in the U.S., specifically as they relate to advocacy on the Keystone (XL) pipeline expansion.”

After a $123 lunch with one of the journalists, a media relations officer from Canada’s Washington embassy filed a report saying the meeting was designed to develop a “better relationship” with the journalist and had strengthened the network of reporters covering Keystone XL.

The records also showed a flurry of emails, generated in response to a negative editorial from the New York Times that criticized the pipeline project, going all the way up to the office of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, prior to approval of a letter to the editor that was signed by Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer.


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This "flurry of activity among Canadian diplomats in the United States," dates back to the summer of 2011—right at the time that protests against Transcanada's Keystone XL successfully delayed the State Department's approval of the project.

Media influence has become paramount as the US State Department again weighs approval of the pipeline, which will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas opening the flood gates to 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide reserves and spelling—as leading environmental scientist James Hansen articulated—"game over" for the climate and planet.

"The facts speak for themselves," said Hannah McKinnon, program manager at Environmental Defence. "There are no rules to control the soaring pollution from the tar sands. Until that changes, it’s all just a glossy PR strategy."

Both US and Canadian governments, with the help of oil and gas industry stakeholders, have long-defended the tar sands industry and have gone great lengths to draw attention away from the devastating impact that extraction of Canadian tar sands oil will have on the climate and planet.

Environmental watchdog groups blasted the "deeply flawed" draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline released Friday, charging that the supposedly unbiased report was written by a contractor for the pipeline's parent company, TransCanada, not by State Department officials.

Also, according to the reporting, Postmedia News obtained another series of internal records earlier this year which indicated that the Harper government "deliberately tried to downplay scientific evidence about the industry’s environmental footprint on air, water and wildlife" while proactively "discouraging federal scientists from speaking publicly about their oil sands research."


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