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Corporate lobbying tour attacks the tar sands trade talks

"Stop the Tar Sands Trade Talks"
“Stop the Tar Sands Trade Talks”

It’s the first day of our delegation to Brussels for the 8th round of CETA negotiations. A busy one.

At 8:30 a.m., I took a cab with the O’Connors (Charlene and Dr. John, Council of Canadians board member) from our hotel to the Brussels Management Centre where Canada-EU trade talks are happening all week. Outside, we met local activists and members of the UK Tar Sands Network who unfurled banners–“Stop the Tar Sands Trade Talks”–for EU, Canadian and provincial negotiators to pass on their way in. We handed out copies of the briefing note we jointly produced with the UK network and IEN, represented here this week by Jasmine Thomas of B.C. The briefing explanes how CETA will make environmental regulations and keeping Indigenous treaty commitments more difficult by locking in the investment rights of EU oil, gas and financial firms operating in Canada. And we asked negotiators not to let a trade deal get in the way of EU efforts to reduce the carbon content of transport fuel.

Canada is starting to get a very bad name among EU decision makers for its incessant lobbying against the Fuel Quality Directive. Specifically, Canada is opposed to including a default carbon content value for tar sands, which a peer-reviewed scientific assessment figures to be 20 kg/mj higher than the carbon content of conventional oil. The Harper and Alberta governments spend enormous amounts of public money trying to convince members of the European Parliament and EU member states to drop any reference to tar sands in the fuel standards legislation. And as the UK government’s trade department confirmed to us during a meeting in London on Friday, Harper has even said the CETA negotiations will suffer if the FQD goes ahead, as most want it to, with a penalizing high carbon level for tar sands.

The campaign has worked in the UK and Holland because both governments have adopted the Harper position and are threatening to veto any recommendation from the EU Commission to treat tar sands as dirty fuel. Go figure, these countries are home to BP and Shell, both of which are expanding their investments in the Alberta tar patch, as well as in false solutions such as Carbon Capture and Storage technology.

Following the leafletting outside the CETA negotiations, we cabbed it to the Canadian Mission to Brussels. We joined 20 others for a corporate lobbying tour co-organized by the Council, UK Tar Sands Network and Corporate Europe Observatory (Pia Eberhardt from CEO pictured outside EU Parliament). Jess Worth, of the UK group, introduced the reason we were on the tour; we were visiting the sites of major corporate lobbying against climate policy and for free trade agreements. On the list after the Canadian mission: the UK embassy, British Petroleum (BP), the European Commission (DG Trade), and the European Parliament, where a year ago we just missed bumping into the Alberta government on our own way in to meet members of parliament.

In front of DG Trade I elaborated on what CETA will mean for public services, government procurement, and all manner of health and climate policies in the EU that Harper and the corporate lobbyists in town this week want to disappear. At the Parliament stop, I explained how today at 5pm, the Canada-Europe Business Roundtable (CERT), which includes reps from Monsanto and Bunge (GMO-producers), and Canada’s mining sector, will be meeting with an EU committee responsible for Canada-Europe relations (we will be meeting with the same committee when members are in Canada next week).

After the morning action, Amelie Nguyen (RQIC), Blair Redlin (CUPE) and I took a train to Paris where we will meet very soon with popular sector organizations, to further cement the French-Canada-Quebec opposition to CETA. The UK Tar Sands Network is producing a video on today’s actions which we will put up on the site soon.

More tomorrow on our meetings in Parliament!