Canadian government: This reporter’s question “undeserving of response”

Media relations officials and diplomats discuss how to release as little information as possible about the Canadian government's relationship with ALEC.

Media relations officials and diplomats discuss how to release as little information as possible about the Canadian government’s relationship with ALEC.

Getting access to records about government decisions and policies has long played a key role in the work of many journalists around the world. It will also be a key element for me in the weeks, months and years to come.

So to end off 2014, here are a few examples of some of my recent experiences with government efforts to either release or hide information.

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KXL PR, spin doctors & ALEC

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline proposal linking the oilsands and Texas remained in the news in July and August 2014

TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal linking the oilsands and Texas remained in the news in July and August 2014

I’ve just concluded a six-week stint at the Ottawa bureau of the Toronto Star.

Here are some of the stories we published over the course of this contract:

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Muzzling allegations are “absolutely ridiculous” says Canadian environment minister

The words "climate change" are sometimes hard to find in the Harper government's published material.

The words “climate change” are sometimes hard to find in the Harper government’s published material.

 

OTTAWA-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is describing fresh allegations of muzzling as “absolutely ridiculous.”

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq rejected criticism from opposition New Democratic Party MP Megan Leslie who said the government “will stop at nothing to hide the consequences of climate change.”

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University of Calgary and Talisman distance themselves from global warming contrarians

Published by Postmedia News on Friday Sep 16 2011

While one American-based climate change skeptic walked away with a $541 soapstone carving, Talisman Energy and other donors to “research” funds at the University of Calgary received tax receipts as a result of a public relations campaign to cast doubt on global warming science, newly released records have revealed.

The revelations from hundreds of pages of invoices and accounting documents from an internal audit come as the university and Talisman, an Alberta-based energy company, move to distance themselves from the sophisticated international marketing and lobbying effort to discredit scientific evidence linking human activity to climate change.

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University climate research accounts used for PR, travel, wining and dining: records

Published by Postmedia News on Wednesday Sep 14 2011

OTTAWA – A pair of “research” accounts at the University of Calgary, funded mainly by the oil and gas industry, were used for a sophisticated international political campaign that involved high-priced consultants, lobbying, wining, dining, and travel with the goal of casting doubt on climate change science, newly-released accounting records have revealed.

The records showed that the strategy was crafted by professional firms, in collaboration with well-known climate change skeptics in Canada and abroad, allowing donors to earn tax receipts by channeling their money through the university.

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Talisman Energy kick-started University of Calgary climate skeptic fund

Talisman Energy kick-started U of C climate skeptic fund
Published by Postmedia News on Tuesday September 13, 2011

OTTAWA – A major Alberta-based oil and gas company helped to kick-start an elaborate public relations project designed to cast doubt on scientific evidence linking human activity to global warming with a $175,000 donation in 2004 channelled through the University of Calgary, a newly-released letter has revealed.

The donation from Talisman Energy was the largest single contribution to a pair of trust accounts at the university that received $507,975 in donations to produce a video and engage in public relations, advertising and lobbying activities against the Kyoto Protocol and government measures to restrict fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Talisman is pleased to be a part of this exciting project and wish you success in the production of the video,” said the letter, dated Nov. 4, 2004, to university account administrator Chantal-Lee Watt, that accompanied a $175, 000 cheque. Continue reading

Feds discreet about foreign funding of climate skeptics

Published by Postmedia News on March 12, 2012

OTTAWA – While it has aggressively slammed environmental groups for using foreign dollars to finance a small portion of their budgets, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is being tight-lipped about revelations that climate change skeptics in Canada are getting money from an American think-tank with corporate funding.

Newly released documents have revealed three Canadians were part of a network of academics receiving monthly payments from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute as part of its advocacy work to cast doubt on scientific evidence linking human activity to global warming observed in recent decades.

Two of the three Canadians mentioned in the internal records have confirmed they were getting paid by the Heartland Institute.

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Climate skeptics gathering influence on Tory senators

published by Postmedia News on Jan. 21, 2012

OTTAWA – Some of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly-appointed senators are emerging as global-warming skeptics in the wake of aggressive government positions to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, slam environmentalists and downplay potential damage caused by Canadian oil and gas exploration.

“I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time,” said Sen. Bert Brown, last month at a parliamentary committee studying energy policies. “It feels pretty good this morning.”

Brown made the comments as the committee heard from four well-known academics who don’t believe humans are playing a major role in warming the planet. The session took place three days after Harper’s government confirmed it would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally-binding agreement that requires countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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