Federal bureaucrats warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government not to become “cheerleaders” for the oilpatch as it launched a sophisticated lobbying and marketing campaign — lightheartedly described as “God’s work” — to promote the industry abroad and challenge foreign climate change policies, newly released internal documents have revealed.
“Given the ever-increasing attention this issue is receiving in the U.S. and Europe, and the importance of the issue to the Canadian economy and our international reputation, a more concerted strategy is needed in some jurisdictions,” said a draft strategy produced in the early days of the plan.
“At the same time, we must carefully balance our messaging to ensure that we cannot be accused by oil sands opponents of simply being cheerleaders or apologists for the industry; the environmental challenges of the oil sands are huge (although not as dire as some NGOs claim) so taking a facts-based approach is vital.”
The draft lobbying and marketing strategy from 2008 was sent out to Natural Resources Canada officials for review by Robert Arnot, then a senior policy adviser on energy issues at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The proposal has since evolved into a full-blown marketing and lobbying strategy, funded by taxpayers, that now includes special training on lobbying for diplomats, regular meetings with industry representatives, distribution of “communications products,” and outreach to “select” foreign media outlets.