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McKenna’s NAFTA environmental council includes former Shell president

Lorraine Mitchelmore

Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna has named a ten-person advisory council on NAFTA and the environment that includes a former president of Shell Canada (who has publicly stated her support for the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East tar sands pipeline), the president of a logging company, an insurance industry executive, and a former Canada-European Union free trade agreement negotiator.

A Government of Canada media release claims, “The council will advise the Minister as Canada looks to strengthen environmental protections in a modernized NAFTA.”

iPolitics further clarifies, “A team of ten experts in trade and the environment will have insider access to the NAFTA renegotiation after being named to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s advisory council on the talks Thursday. [They] will be able to read and discuss negotiating texts because of their involvement on the council, McKenna spokesperson Caitlin Workman told iPolitics.”

The Globe and Mail notes, “In an interview, Ms. McKenna said that the United States is calling for high environmental standards to be included in the agreement, which creates grounds for discussion.”

But the newspaper challenges McKenna’s claim: “President Donald Trump is pursuing an effort to cut regulations and to roll back climate-change efforts initiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The U.S. trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, signalled the American side wants a far narrower scope for environmental protection that would prohibit countries from failing to enforce pollution regulations, or waiving environmental rules, in order to attract investment. The Americans also proposed to eliminate the NAFTA environmental side deal, which has been criticized as toothless but provides a forum for joint efforts. The United States also says the deal should require countries to implement their trade-related obligations under multilateral environmental agreements, such as the convention on international trade in endangered species. But that would not include the Paris agreement.”

It also reports, “The 10-person advisory council includes two former premiers, British Columbia’s Gordon Campbell and Quebec’s Pierre-Marc Johnson, and former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon.”

JWN highlights, “The former president and country chair of Shell Canada has been appointed to a new NAFTA advisory council on the environment. Lorraine Mitchelmore, currently president and CEO of Field Upgrading, has 30-plus years experience in the international oil and gas industry.”

Mitchelmore has commented that “you cannot replace fossil fuels” given the level of demand there is for energy and has bluntly stated about the dirty oil label given to the tar sands (that have produced 1.2 trillion litres of toxic petrochemical waste) in northern Alberta, “I don’t know where the term comes from, in a way.”

In October 2013, the Vancouver Observer reported, “While the Shell exhibition in the next room celebrated the company’s deep commitment to environmental solutions, [Mitchelmore] seemed to be deliberately non-committal during her Vancouver stop about how these projects [offshore drilling near Nova Scotia, LNG exports, an expansion of the tar sands] would reduce fossil fuel dependence in the years to come.”

Trade minister Chrystia Freeland has stated she wants an environment chapter to be included in NAFTA, but the Trudeau government has reportedly said a hard no to revising (or eliminating) the Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA (even though Canada has faced 38 Chapter 11 suits, two thirds-of them over environmental protections).

Nor has Trudeau given any indication he is concerned by Article 605, the NAFTA energy proportionality provision that basically locks in 3.76 million barrels a day of oil exports from Canada to the United States. Article 605 says that Canada must maintain at least the same level of oil and gas exports to the US as it had supplied for the past thirty-six months. Only if Canadian consumption is cut proportionately, and then only in times of crisis, could the Canadian government cut export levels to the US.

A Canadian trade official has even stated that including Mexican oil and gas under NAFTA “would be an attractive prospect in trade talks”.

The full membership for the “North American Free Trade Agreement Council on the Environment” can be read here. It includes Anne Giardini (the president of Weyerhauser, a transnational logging company), Kathy Bardswick (an insurance industry executive and a member of the Business Council of Canada’s so-called ‘Council for Clean Capitalism’) and Pierre-Marc Johnson (Quebec’s negotiator for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which could help facilitate increased tar sands exports from Canada into the European Union).