Alberta Politics
Environmentalist Tzeoporah Berman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

‘A disservice to our nation’ – Tzeoporah Berman fires back at Jason Kenney’s ‘crass, simplistic narrative’

Posted on September 30, 2018, 12:57 am
8 mins

In a blistering broadside on social media yesterday, prominent B.C. environmentalist Tzeporah Berman fired back at Opposition Leader Jason Kenney for his continuing effort to reduce her to a figure of hatred, ridicule and contempt as a way to undermine Alberta’s NDP government.

“You keep simplifying what I am saying to foment fear and anger in Alberta that paralyzes us from progress,” Ms. Berman wrote on her Facebook page. “This is not leadership, it’s a disingenuous, simplistic, poisonous, ego-led grasp for power and I hope voters in 2019 see through it.”

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Berman asserted that she has never called for the overnight shutdown of the oilsands as UCP supporters repeatedly claim. “We need to agree to stop expansion and then create a just transition and economic diversification plan for workers and their families.”

“This crass, simplistic narrative and debate you are fomenting is a disservice to Albertans and our nation,” she stated.

A timeline created last week by Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party online meme gnomes concluded by asking about Ms. Berman’s now-ended role as co-chair of the Alberta Government’s Oil Sands Advisory Group: “Why was Berman ever appointed?”

“In answer to your question,” Ms. Berman wrote in her riposte: “Premier Notley appointed me because a group of 5 CEO’s of oil companies and 5 (environmental non-governmental organization) leaders recommended me to co-chair the working group ironically because I had spent the last two years mediating and chairing a conversation between them about decreasing polarizing and trying to respectfully understand each other’s views in order to break the climate policy gridlock in the country.”

“It had been working and resulted in support from the industry for the climate plan including the coal phase out and the carbon tax,” she said.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“So let me reiterate Mr. Kenney, Premier Notley appointed me because leaders in the oil industry asked her to.” (Emphasis added.)

Among the industry leaders who contributed to that decision, Ms. Berman told me yesterday, were Dave Collyer, former president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and former president of Shell Canada Ltd., Steve Williams, president and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc., N. Murray Edwards, former CEO of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Lorraine Mitchelmore, former president of Shell Canada Ltd., and Brian Ferguson, former CEO of Cenovus Energy Inc. Mr. Collyer served as industry co-chair of the OSAG.

At any rate, Ms. Berman said in her Facebook commentary yesterday, her mediation efforts were working until the Trans Mountain Pipeline “became a poisonous holy grail, a debate that is more about the stranglehold the oil industry has over our politics and imagination and the pervasiveness of the ideology of growth at all costs than about the actual pipeline.”

Many Albertans may not be aware either of Ms. Berman’s past successes working with corporate leaders – as in the resolution she is credited with brokering between B.C. logging companies and environmentalists in the Great Bear Rainforest to end “the War in the Woods” in the early 1990s – or how controversial they were among many environmentalists because she was seen as too conciliatory.

Nor does it seem to bother Alberta’s conservatives that by attacking Ms. Berman, they are also disparaging the work done by her co-chair Mr. Collyer and his industry colleagues. “By constantly vilifying one prominent environmentalist, these critics undermine the work of all members of the advisory group,” I wrote in this space in June 2017 of attacks by the UCP’s predecessor parties, the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose.

Shell Canada Ltd. President and CEO Dave Collyer (Photo: Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame).

“Mr. Collyer – along with representatives of Cenovus Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources 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,” I pointed out. “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.”

Why has no one from mainstream media ever picked up a phone and asked Mr. Collyer or other industry experts on the committee about their thoughts on Ms. Berman’s contribution? Instead, writers for Postmedia in particular have enthusiastically parroted the sustained and vicious personal attacks on Ms. Berman by Mr. Kenney and other conservative leaders, not to mention the UCP’s unacknowledged staff-run Twitter troll farm. A recent Calgary Herald story portrayed her and other pipeline opponents as “enemies of Alberta’s energy industry.”

This campaign has been at least a partial success for the UCP – eventually persuading the Notley Government in June 2017 that Ms. Berman had become a political liability who needed to depart.

Some UCP supporters, perhaps unhinged by what they were hearing in the media, on social media and in party fund-raising emails, showered Ms. Berman with threats of sexual violence and death, anti-Semitism and, on one occasion in Edmonton airport, literal spittle.

The personal vilification campaign against Ms. Berman was ratcheted up again soon after the August’s Federal Court of Appeal decision delaying the Trans Mountain expansion project when the public learned the Alberta Teachers Association had invited her to speak to a social studies teachers’ conference in Edmonton next month.

The opportunity to attack teachers, unions, environmentalists, and the NDP all at once was apparently too much for the UCP to restrain itself.

Premier Notley also sought and was granted an invitation to the ATA’s Oct. 13 conference to rebut Ms. Berman’s remarks.

Ms. Berman, having been turned in her own words into “a political football in Alberta” by the UCP’s invective and kicked under the bus by the NDP, presumably now feels empowered to defend her reputation. It could get interesting.

10 Comments to: ‘A disservice to our nation’ – Tzeoporah Berman fires back at Jason Kenney’s ‘crass, simplistic narrative’

  1. Gary Harmata

    September 30th, 2018

    We have built a civilization that depends on fossil fuels for its sustenance (both for our energy and economic activity). When the conversation turns to phasing away from fossil fuels, people react with fear for their livelihoods.

    I have had a lot of issues with Ms Berman. Thank you for clearing up some of the misconceptions about her that I have laboured under. My ignorance on what she stands for has led me submit to my fears.

  2. Geoffrey Pounder

    September 30th, 2018

    Climenhaga: “Ms. Berman, having been turned in her own words into “a political football in Alberta” by the UCP’s invective and kicked under the bus by the NDP…”

    Canadian Press: “Notley says she needs to go [to the Alberta Teachers Association conference], in her words, ‘to counter misinformation and ensure that the whole story is told.'”

    Notley comes just short of calling Berman a liar.
    With friends like these (Notley), who needs enemies (Kenney)?

  3. the salamander

    September 30th, 2018

    .. this is a timely and illuminating article, thanks ! (and hardly surprising, coming from alberta politics dot ca) I consider myself informed, up to date.. blah blah.. yet the article caught me by surprise. Ms Berman was slowly slipping into our weakassed perceptions.. not all due to Jason Kenney of course.. but the mainly due to the general sloppiness, laziness and apathy of Mainstream Media.. the rest was just partisan piling on gratefully. Something always flows into a void.. and that’s how we end up with a Jason Kenney or lickspittle Mainstream Media..

  4. Geoffrey Pounder

    September 30th, 2018

    AB Govt re Oil Sands Advisory Group: “The diverse composition of the advisory group will ensure government hears all perspectives so ultimate decisions and actions are well-supported amongst stakeholders.”

    Who is a legitimate stakeholder? The NDP and the UCP cannot agree.
    The NDP definition included environmentalists — or at least the eco-celebrities and big ENGOs willing to compromise or sell out, depending on your point of view.
    The UCP does not believe environmentalists (or people who care about their grandchildren) should have any say in the matter.

    In the meantime, Premier Notley has ditched Berman, thrown her “under the bus”, and assumed the role of principal Berman fact-checker. Notley appears to regret inviting environmentalists to the table. On this point, at least, Notley now seems to be on the same page as the UCP.

    The proposition that the 100 Mt cap was fraudulent, unscientific, and unacceptable was not open for debate. That discussion never took place.
    Which is the usual result when eco-celebrities and big ENGOs share a bottle of wine with the captains of industry.
    Stakeholders conspicuously absent from the table include climate scientists and future generations, who would never agree to such an illegitimate premise.

  5. Sam Gunsch

    September 30th, 2018

    USA Republican politics on climate and pricing carbon: ‘ the most consistent theme of US politics for as long as I’ve been following it — is that Republicans are not, in fact, motivated by conservative economic principles. They are motivated primarily by tribal hostility toward the left’

    The excerpts are relevant to the UCP’s & RW pundits/editorialists, lack of interest in checking whether industry supported Berman and solutions.

    This USA analyst writes about Republican blind, power-seeking, opposition to climate taxes… RW opposition is largely about blocking any solutions the ‘Left’ and industry and economists might agree on, and simply about getting political power.

    UCP & AB’s conservative political elite are ignoring all the economic arguments for pricing carbon, ignoring Preston Manning’s EcoFiscal Commission, etc, attacking ENGOs/Berman simply as a means of defeating NDP and taking the RW’s rightful place back in power.

    EXCERPT: ‘ The political theory behind revenue-neutral carbon taxes, and 732, is that they have bipartisan appeal. They don’t increase government revenue, they don’t spend money on government-selected interest groups, and they have been endorsed by a number of conservative economists.

    They ought to have bipartisan appeal. If Republicans were actually motivated by conservative economic principles, they would have bipartisan appeal. But in practice, they don’t have bipartisan appeal.

    What the coalition behind 732 discovered — what one earnest group of would-be bipartisan compromisers after another has discovered, in what is perhaps the most consistent theme of US politics for as long as I’ve been following it — is that Republicans are not, in fact, motivated by conservative economic principles. They are motivated primarily by tribal hostility toward the left and the demographic changes it represents. The institutional Republican Party would sooner saw its own arm off than give the left a “bipartisan” victory on climate change.

    And so 732 lost, with only three endorsements from Republican office-holders. And so Donald Trump won.

  6. Geoffrey Pounder

    September 30th, 2018

    “At any rate, Ms. Berman said in her Facebook commentary yesterday, her mediation efforts were working until the Trans Mountain Pipeline ‘became a poisonous holy grail…'”

    Not to detract from Ms. Berman’s mediation efforts, but the mandate of the Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) was to advise on the implementation of the oilsands emissions cap — an obvious non-starter.
    In 2015, the AB Climate Change Panel laid down the framework of AB’s Climate Change Plan, including the 100 Mt oilsands emissions cap.

    The oilsands emissions cap — at 43% above current levels! — will go down as one of Notley’s best works of fiction.
    The UN, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the federal Environment Commissioner all issued warnings in 2017 that Canada is NOT on track to meet its targets. The main obstacle? Rising oilsands emissions.
    OECD: “Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada’s climate mitigation targets.”

    Mark Jaccard, SFU: “National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30% reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oilsands expansion.”

    One study after another reports that AB’s oil & gas emissions are grossly under-reported.
    If AB’s emissions stats are fictional, so is AB’s temporary oilsands emissions cap. After tallying oilsands emissions including projects that are under construction, have received approval, or are seeking approval, the Pembina Institute calculates that the total “blows well past” Notley’s fraudulent cap.

    Several exemptions raise the cap above the nominal 100 Mt limit.

    Notley’s fraudulent oilsands cap won’t outlive her govt. After the carbon tax, it’s the first item on Jason Kenney’s hit list.

    I support Berman’s stance against the TMX pipeline —but why would any self-respecting environmentalist take part in this deception?

  7. September 30th, 2018

    Very good article. I appreciate that you are able to pick up the fragments that are blasted out of the postmedia narrative on these topics and present them in your forum. Always a pleasure and ,if at all possible, I would love to pick your brain for historical lessons on the Adler’s influence in Alberta and also Ted Byfield.
    Again very good article. It needs to be repeated about a million times now. Mind if I?

  8. Farmer Brian

    October 1st, 2018

    To quote Tzeporah Berman “We need to agree to stop expansion and then create a just transition and economic diversification plan for the workers and their families”. To me this sounds like stopping investment in the oilsands and winding it down over time. While Jason Kenney certainly speeds up the timeframe in his statement he is certainly correct that her goal is to shutter the oilsands. I believe Premier Notley has also come to this realization!

    • Rocky

      October 1st, 2018

      Just in case you missed it, Brian, shutting the door so that no more mosquitoes can enter your house is not the same thing as burning the house down to get rid of the mosquitoes inside.

  9. the salamander

    October 1st, 2018

    .. aint it funny how ‘methane’ hardly ever gets a mention via elected public servants, political parties, lickspittle mainstream media.. Way safer to vaguely dispute ‘climate warming’ – or just change the conversation to ‘growing the economy’ – at most just say CO2 and use ‘unproven science’ in the same sentence


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