Shannon Phillips says group membership will change – now is the perfect time to fire Tzeporah Berman
I’ve written three columns about Tzeporah Berman, the eco-activist gadfly appointed by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to the Oil Sands Advisory Group two years ago. At first I supported Notley’s decision. But it soon became clear Berman is a political liability. Now the Ontario university professor has endorsed the BC NDP and its opposition to an Alberta pipeline project. She has to go.
“The goal of the Oil Sands Advisory Group is to bring together a diverse group of experts – from oil and gas, the environmental movement, indigenous and non-indigenous groups – to advise government how we can best work to reduce oil sands emissions,” Alberta Energy Minister Marg McQuaid-Boyd said in my Sept. 23, 2016 column.
Brad Hartle, McQuaid-Boyd’s press secretary at the time, went even further: “OSAG has been tasked with telling us how to increase production while reducing emissions. This is about innovation and increasing production,” he said in a separate email.
Here is what Berman wrote in 2015: “I am committed to working in good faith with the rest of the advisory group to develop advice that ensures a strong economy and a leadership position for Alberta on environmental issues.”
Is she still working with the Alberta government in good faith when she provides advice as part of the committee, cashes an Alberta government cheque as compensation for that work, then actively opposes the same government’s objectives in another province?
In my opinion, no.
She joined Rachel Notley’s team to help craft policy that would achieve its goals of decarbonizing provincial oil production even while that production is slated to increase by over 1 million b/d by 2025.
Berman knew exactly what she signed up for.
I interviewed Environment Minister Shannon Phillips in Feb. for a Markham On Energy webinar and asked her specifically about Berman’s role on the advisory group.
Here’s are Phillips’ responses:
“There were certainly voices on that group that have views that I don’t share on the role of pipeline access, for example, and you know, we’ve been very clear – we disagree on a number of things but where we don’t disagree is that the oil sands make a valuable contribution to the province and to the country and we need to be able to have those substantive conversations with its critics, our critics outside of the province, and I think that’s where the value comes in.”
The substantive conversation with Berman is arguably not providing value to Alberta or the NDP government.
Notley and Phillips will never say it publicly, but you can bet they would prefer to work with Christy Clark’s Liberal government, which has endorsed Kinder Morgan’s 525,000 b/d Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, rather than John Horgan and the NDP, which actively oppose it.
The Alberta Premier can’t be looking forward to the political equivalent of Thanksgiving spats between drunk uncles.
Here is the second part of Phillips’ comment about Berman:
“I’ve also been very clear that that membership will change over time. Because there were so many oil companies and others– location community-based organizations that is to say municipalities – indigenous organizations and others that wanted to participate on the oil sands advisory group, so I fully anticipate that organically the membership will turn over over time.”
There you have it, the perfect justification to turf Berman from the advisory group.
And Phillips should get on her horse – the BC election is May 9. Better to fire Berman this week than next week if the NDP emerge victorious. Otherwise, the inevitable firing will really ruffle some feathers across the Rockies.