Bias in the NAFTA Advisory Council on the Environment

The 10-person Council announced by Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna prompts PCM to ASK WHY again.
Here is the official government list of members and their qualifications.
But a closer look shows an unsettling bias in the group, revealed by this letter from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
(BOLD added by PCM)

19 September 2017

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Dear Minister:

We would like to express our great concern about your recent announcement on the creation of a 10-person advisory council on NAFTA and the environment. Our concern has to do with what appears to be a clear ideological bias in favour of the resource sector, private sector, and privatization.

As structured, this advisory council cannot effectively address environmental issues with regard to NAFTA if composed of former executives from the resource sector such as

Lorraine Mitchelmore, a former president of Shell Canada;
Anne Giardini, a former president of the logging company Weyerhaeuser Canada.

Neither can this council work with neutrality on environmental questions with only former politicians who have supported or worked on controversial projects affecting the environment, or who have been involved in negotiating the Canada-European Union free trade agreement with its clauses and sections considered highly contentious by many Canadians:

Pierre-Marc Johnson, a former Quebec premier and Quebec’s negotiator for the Canada-European Union free trade agreement;
Gordon Campbell, the former BC premier who approved in 2010 the highly controversial Site C dam project.

It also seems this council will not be able to provide critical advice or insight with respect to the environment when advisors represent only the interests of the private sector on trade, investment, and privatization, and of the resource sector (from industries such as oil, gas, mining and minerals). For instance,

Kathy Bardswick, is a former president of the The Co-operators, and a founding member of the “Council for Clean Capitalism.”

Matt Kronby, is an international lawyer who has a career representing private sector clients and advising corporate boards and senior executives on trade and investment issues.

Scott Vaughan, is the president of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). In a November 2012 blog, Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians noted that funders of IISD include Enbridge, Suncor, Alcan, Investors Group, the International Council on Mining and Minerals, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. On its current website, the IISD cites a study that promotes “the benefits associated with enhancing and aligning oil and gas sector environmental regulations and fiscal policies in Canada, the United States and Mexico.”

Sabaa Khan is an international environmental and trade law specialist whose research focuses on “public-private partnerships in asset recovery and e-waste management.”

Janice MacKinnon, a former Saskatchewan cabinet minister, is currently an advisor to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, which has been criticized for its close relationship with the fossil fuels industry. Suncor is one of the Commission’s funders, and Suncor’s CEO Steve Williams sits on the advisory board. According to some media reports, there is a close association between the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Ecofiscal Commission in terms of shared policy goals: In a 2016 interview with the Canadian Press, CAPP’s Krista Phillips said that CAPP was “taking its cue” from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission.

Nonetheless, we do note that the remaining member of the council is Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiritt Kanatami. But the council is weighted to favour the perspectives, goals, and agendas of groups who have no clear priority toward protecting the environment or the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and their land and interests.

Thus, when I first learned about the composition of this committee I was quite taken aback. We at the National Union are very concerned about the heavy influence of corporate and pro-business interests, the under-representation of independent voices, and the complete absence of representation from both labour groups and environmental organizations. Given the structure of this advisory council, without the presence of, and dialogue with, environmental and labour specialists, it seems that the advisors have a conflict of interest regarding the environment.

Minister, we are deeply troubled and perplexed about why you would seek to take advice from former executives from industries such as oil, insurance, and logging, and from individuals who have a clear ideological bias for private interests, but completely ignore groups like the Environmental Law Association, the Council of Canadians, or the Canadian Labour Congress.

We are asking you, Ms. McKenna, to redress this oversight by including representatives from labour and environmental organizations.

Larry Brown

cc:  Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians
      Canadian Environmental Law Association

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