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NEWS: Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK backs CETA, tar sands, austerity measures

James Wright

James Wright

The Scotsman reports today that, “James Wright (Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom) robustly defended his country’s environmental record over the exploitation of ‘oil sands’ in Northern Alberta, and argued that Scottish energy firms were set to benefit from increased involvement in the sector once a free trade agreement with Europe (the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) was signed this year.”

“(Wright) said from ‘well to wheel’ carbons emissions from oil sands would only be 5 to 10 per cent larger than other forms of conventional oil recovery. …He said emissions from the extraction of oil from sand had reduced by 40 per cent due to improved technology.”

Wright doesn’t mention that the tar sands emit three to five times as much carbon dioxide as conventional oil drilling and that it is destroying the livelihoods and health of local Indigenous communities and decimating ancient forests and wildlife across an area of Alberta larger than England. Nor does he mention that Alberta is forecasting their emissions rising 58 percent above 1990 levels by 2020.

“(Canada’s high commissioner also) said Canadian firms had invested ‘billions not millions’ in the North Sea, including Talisman, Suncor and CNR, which produced 30 per cent of oil and gas in the North Sea.”

The Associated Press has reported that Greenpeace is seeking a halt to deepwater drilling in the North Sea, which already has 24 drilling rigs and 280 oil and gas installations. Last November AP noted, “Britain’s Conservative-led government has rejected suggestions for a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the North Sea. …But Greenpeace and other critics say a moratorium on deep sea drilling is needed, citing a Health and Safety Executive report in August that showed a spike in accidental leaks and serious injuries to workers on offshore platforms in 2009 and 2010.”

It is worth noting that the ‘Canadian firms’ Wright refers to could perhaps use an investor-state provision in CETA to challenge a moratorium or other environmental measures and safeguards implemented by a future UK government or the European Union that infringed on the profitability of its operations in the North Sea.

And remarkably, “(Wright) said Canada’s experience of cutting its deficit through austerity measures which saw 50,000 civil servants lose their jobs in the 1990s has seen the country enjoy a budget surplus for the past 11 years which has helped it pay down its debt.”

This quote seems to imply the Canadian high commissioner’s support for British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘big society’ austerity measures that have targeted almost every area of government spending, seek to cut hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, and have prompted ongoing protests.

The Scotsman article is at http://business.scotsman.com/business/UK-to-benefit-from-Canada.6712024.jp.