Cornwall ON – This weekend will see a meeting of Canada’s Federal, Provincial and Territorial Energy ministers, hosted by the Province of Alberta and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
The meeting is expected to cost about $600,000 – significantly more than it needs, as much of it will take place in Calgary. Accommodation costs in Calgary are always expensive – however, during the Calgary Stampede, which coincides with this conference, hotel prices routinely double.
Taxpayers Need not be Concerned
However, taxpayers need not be too concerned over the extravagance, as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, (CAPP) and a number of big oil companies with stakes in the Tar Sands will be paying almost a third of the conference’s cost.
This in itself raises an interesting question: will future health ministers’ conferences be sponsored, in part, by big pharmaceutical companies and fast food chains? Will companies such as Nintendo help sponsor education ministers’ conferences? Will CAPP and the gas retailers sponsor meetings of the countries transportation ministers? As it is currently illegal for corporations to support any federal political party directly, such corporate sponsorship provides an important legal loophole for major companies to get their point across to influence the federal government.
Not in Calgary for the Stampede
However, the visiting ministers are not in Calgary to watch the Stampede. A significant part of the energy ministers’ agenda will be a trip to the Fort McMurray Tar Sands, which is likely to be the primary focus of the meeting. Air transportation alone, from Calgary to Fort McMurray and back, will cost $20,000.
Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert intends to push federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver towards increasing federal support for Alberta’s two pipeline proposals. One is the highly controversial Keystone XL line into the US. The second is the less-publicized but even more environmentally hazardous Enbridge pipeline from the Tar Sands, across the Rockies and through northern BC to Kitimat. Notably absent from CAPP’s agenda is any kind of oil pipeline to Eastern Canada, which would face severe oil shortages should problems with OPEC arise.
Interviewed by the CBC’s Chris Hall, Liepert stated he plans to persuade the federal Energy Minister that the government, with its majority, must take a more active role in pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline. As the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, with its partner the Alberta Government, is hosting the energy ministers’ conference, it is likely that lobbying for federal support, along with the Tar Sands producers’ other major concerns, will occupy much of the conference.
The businesses sponsoring the conference are:
- The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers ($30,000)
- The Oil Sands Developers Group, Nexen, TransCanada, Cenovus Energy ($20,000 each)
- Devon, the Canadian Electricity Association, Shell, Encana Natural Gas, Enbridge, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Petroleum Products Institute ($10,000 each)
On the other hand, it may be the start of a whole new trend – government financed by corporate sponsorship rather than by the taxpayer.