Opposition focuses its fury on Tzeporah Berman, ignores oilsands advisory group’s consensus recommendations … why?

Posted on June 20, 2017, 1:36 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Environmentalist Tzeporah Berman. Below: Former Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president Dave Collyer, who worked successfully with Ms. Berman to produce the recommendations of the Alberta Government’s Oil Sands Advisory Group, and Opposition leaders Jason Kenney of the Progressive Conservative Party and Brian Jean of the Wildrose Party, who relentlessly attacked Ms. Berman.

Do the leaders of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties and the participants in the media echo chamber that typically supports them have a substantive criticism of the recommendations of the Alberta NDP Government’s Oil Sands Advisory Group, or do they just like attacking Tzeporah Berman?

This is a serious question. It should be an important question for Albertans and other Canadians, regardless of their views of the merits of oilsands development, because the OSAG committee was made up of people with a range of opinions, some from industry, some from the environmental groups and some from municipalities and First Nations communities.

So someone really ought to ask Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and the other right-wing figures who have pilloried Ms. Berman if they think the work of, for example, industry co-chair Dave Collyer, a former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, should be treated with the same disdain as Ms. Berman’s contribution has been.

The report the OSAG issued last Friday is the same work, after all. And by constantly vilifying one prominent environmentalist, these critics undermine the work of all members of the advisory group.

Mr. Collyer – along with representatives of Cenovus Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resource Ltd., MEG Energy Corp., Statoil Canada Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. – agreed to the recommendations of the OSAG as much as Ms. Berman did. They produced a consensus document.

The only substance of the opposition criticism appears to be that the recommendations of the OSAG are worthless simply because of the presence of a few environmentalists, Ms. Berman in particular, on the committee.

Perhaps that is why no one from mainstream media picked up the phone and asked Mr. Collyer or the other industry experts on the committee about their thoughts on Ms. Berman’s work. Their answers, after all, might not jibe with the Opposition narrative.

“I haven’t even heard any criticism of the policies we all agreed on,” Ms. Berman told me yesterday. “I find it deplorable that those who are vying for (political) leadership are attacking the government for trying to overcome differences and thereby create durable policy.”

The opposition’s approach, she said, was that “we have to agree on everything, or you’re a traitor. It’s sad.”

The OSAG approach, by contrast, while tense at first, was after several meetings successfully collaborative. “I worked hard to build a respectful dialogue with industry. They had good people. … I have hopes that this can be a useful example that it’s possible to do this.”

Industry, community and environmental representatives worked together with integrity, she said in a Facebook post on June 16, the day the government announced the end to the first two phases of the OSAG’s work, and her departure from the advisory role. Some other members, including Mr. Collyer, remain.

There has been very little mainstream media reporting about the actual policies the OSAG recommended to the government.

Media emphasis has focused on Ms. Berman, who had the misfortune of becoming a lightning rod for the Alberta right wing’s fury at the thought someone who does not completely share their worldview had a role in developing policy. For this, she was excoriated as an enemy of Alberta, and worse.

The closest thing to policy criticism was a June 16 piece in the Financial Post – not available online as the Post renovates its website – that said in passing the “punishing carbon diet proposed” by the recommendations would send operators scurrying to other jurisdictions, a contentious claim for which there is little evidence.

Being on the receiving end of the often-hysterical Opposition attacks was not pleasant for Ms. Berman. “It was vile, it was violent,” she recalled from Vancouver yesterday.

After news releases published by the Wildrose and PC parties, and particularly after broadsides from the alt-right Rebel Media website, “I would get a slew of death threats, sexual threats,” on social media. Comments were sometimes anti-Semitic, she added.

On one occasion, Ms. Berman said, she was physically assaulted in Edmonton Airport by a man who grabbed her, shook her, and spat in her face. She escaped into a women’s washroom, then ran for the safety of the gate and her flight. “I travel in groups now in Edmonton.”

So another question for Alberta’s Opposition leaders might be if they consider this kind of attack on a woman travelling alone as an acceptable form of political discourse.

Many in the environmental community believe the emissions cap recommended by the OSAG is far too high, Ms. Berman added, “so I was subject to vilification from my side too.”

“The sad thing is,” she said, the most vociferous right-wing groups “are playing on people’s legitimate fears.”

As the world transitions to a lower-carbon economy, “we need to be working together to figure out what that looks like, because we’re going that way regardless.

“I have never said in 15 years on working on oilsands that it should be shut down overnight. I believe we are seeing soft oil demand globally and the highest cost producers will be priced out of the market first.

“My goal was to help us create conversations that will help us create pathways from here to there,” she said. “For families, communities, workers, we have a responsibility to develop public policies for all scenarios.”

And if we avoid the hard conversations, Ms. Berman warned, “we’re not planning at all.”

That may suit Alberta’s Opposition of course. As history shows, it’s the way Alberta conservatives operate.

Actions recommended in the OSAG report include:

  • Requiring all new facilities and expansions to use the best technology economically achievable
  • Publishing an annual forecast of greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands
  • Imposing more stringent restrictions if emissions get too close to the government’s 100-megatonne annual limit
  • Penalizing companies that exceed their emissions limits

The OSAG report is not binding. Recommendations will have to be approved by the provincial government.

9 Comments to: Opposition focuses its fury on Tzeporah Berman, ignores oilsands advisory group’s consensus recommendations … why?

  1. TENET

    June 20th, 2017

    Jean and Kenney are little men that can not cope with educated, articulate, women so they revert to personal attacks. It is already a clear pattern of the right, and it is far too prevalent in Alberta.

    The boys club is conspicuously silent when their members gather for militia maneuvers in the shadowy corners of rural Alberta. They rally together to signal out one member of OSAG. They are ignorant, inconsiderate bullies. Unfortunately, in Alberta and America, men like them wield political power. It is sobering, mostly it is scary.

    Reply
  2. Farmer B

    June 20th, 2017

    My understanding of how a carbon tax is supposed to work is that by pricing carbon people and businesses will change how they operate so that they don’t produce as much C02 and therefore pay less carbon tax. The OSAG was created for the sole purpose of implementing the 100 mega tonne C02 limit. One quick point, was there a limit imposed on conventionally produced oil?(Not that I know of) If the government truly believes in the efficacy of a carbon tax no emission limits would be necessary on the oil sands and no legislation for the shutdown of coal fired power generation, this would all occur in due time as companies change their operations to cope with the tax. Government is attempting to pre-judge what will occur with legislation, wrong imo.

    As for Tzeporah Berman, there is no justification for the negative public response she has received. The proliferation of social media and the increased access this allows to those on the extreme fringes to those in the public service is hard to combat. As for the recommendations, I am sure that all new production from the oilsands uses the latest technology. As for the rest, I am sure some in industry will view them as a disincentive to invest, others will view them as a challenge to overcome. By adding higher costs and more regulation you do not insentivise business to invest in your jurisdiction.

    Reply
    • Alfredo Louro

      June 20th, 2017

      It is not merely a matter of reducing carbon emissions. Since their effect is cumulative, the *rate* at which they are reduced is also crucial.

      Reply
    • Jim Williamson

      June 21st, 2017

      The regulations proposed require action be taken only if the limit is approached or exceeded. There is a lot of flexibility in how the cap is enforced.

      Reply
  3. Val

    June 20th, 2017

    well, you weren’t participant of OSAG meetings and discussions and couldn’t know constructiveness and usefulness of contribution of Tzeporah Berman, didn’t you?
    on other hands, her blind aggressive crusade against everything O&G industry, is very well known around and quite hard to imagine the OSAG meetings have attended different Tzeporah Berman.

    afterward criticism is a stupid and useless, sure. but such odious and controversial representatives should not be selected in the first place to begin with.

    Reply
    • Steve Cumming

      June 20th, 2017

      Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you Conservative Party: baseless accusations, libel, and apologies for stalking and assault. About what you’d expect from a vicious pack of liars, cowards and bullies.

      I have no problem calling you out under my real name.

      Reply
      • Val

        June 21st, 2017

        conservative? perhaps rather extreme centrist with preferences toward logic, balanced approach and practical side over any kind of ideological banners and slogans.
        if my remark is “baseless accusations”, then article pretty much also can be considered as “baseless glorification”, isn’t?

        Reply
  4. Ken Larsen

    June 20th, 2017

    As I recall, one of Grant Notley’s favorite quips came from Will Rodgers: “Where everyone thinks alike, nobody thinks much at all” which pretty much sums up what went wrong with Alberta under the Conservatives.

    Reply
  5. political ranger

    June 20th, 2017

    So, who thinks this kind of response is something new in Alberta politics? Many of the readers of this fine blog and most of the posters.
    In fact, this is the standard response by the overwhelming majority of Albertans to anything faintly resembling modern, intelligent analysis. Certainly the corporate and gov’t leadership are almost all supportive of this reaction.
    If anything the response has ‘softened’ somewhat since the demise of Ralphy and Stevey (West and harper).

    Rather than moaning and pissing over all those ‘other bad actors’ it’s long past time to recognise what we’re living with and call them out. David has done a fine job of that. Let this not be the end of it, rather the beginning of the end for them.

    Reply

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