Sunday, 19 August 2012

Gary Doer "living the dream"

20th Manitoba Premier and
Canada's current Ambassador
to the United States Gary Doer.

He's been advancing Harper's dirty
oil agenda in the DC beltway.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Gary Doer's apparently "living the dream" as Ambassador to the US, according to a hagiographic article by the Canadian Press.

There was a lot of buzz and speculation among Manitoba politicos when Doer was picked by Harper to be Canada's US ambassador. Was Harper trying to help the provincial Tories win by removing an effective retail politician from the Dipper's leadership? Was this some sort've olive branch, a sign of Harper's moderation? The truth of the matter is that he wasn't concerned with parochial partisan politics, he needed an effective salesman for the oil sands and Doer's one of the best retail politicians in the country.

The "oust Doer to help McFadyen" idea really never was that plausible. Ambassador to the United States isn't some BS patronage appointment like Senator - it's a damn serious job that has crucial implications for Canada's trade/economy and the government's policy agenda. Delivering the Canadian government of the day's pitch to the world's only superpower is serious business. No half-competennt politician in this country would shuffle someone into that position just for shits and giggles (or to get someone ideologically likeminded elected in a midsize province).

The crown jewel of the Harper energy agenda - dirty oil - was at stake given that America had elected a new President; one willing to at least make some small gestures to environmentalists. Harper needed a salesman and Manitoba had one of the best out there.

Gary Doer is the consummate retail politician. He's capable of delivering any line, flip flopping in any direction, or doing any typical career politician move without seeming like a typical career politician. Doer started his tenure as party leader out delivering effusive praise for Howard Pawley's character and record, only to turn around and tell voters that "I am not Howard Pawley" while rebranding the Manitoba NDP. This consummate retail politician has a folksy charm and - for a while - was the basis of much of the provincial NDP's image. "Today's NDP" and "Gary Doer" were nearly inseparable throughout the early 2000s.
Nugget from this post worth repeating:

According to the Energy Resource Conservation
Board, nearly 230,000 litres of heavy crude oil from
an Embridge pumping station spilled onto Alberta farmland.

Oil spills are not good for the livelihood of hard
working Canadian farmers or small towns whose
drinking waters could be affected.

Image Source: Jobbook News

The reduction of provincial policy to a series of small, unambitious funding announcements is the hallmark of the Doer legacy. It's unsurprising that a politician so retail-oriented, less inclined to unwavering convictions or principled battles, could easily start working as Harper's lead salesman for an anti-environmental agenda. After all, the lead salesperson at a Toyota dealership could easily start working for a Ford dealership next week. Good retail skills do not entail deeply held convictions or loyalty to a particular company/cause/party or brand.

Manitoba Wildlands director Gaile Whelan Enns even criticized what is supposed to be Doer’s flagship achievement: protecting the east side of Lake Winnipeg. She thinks the much-publicized $10 million trust fund is so small as to be useless. “It looks great for him, but there’s no money,” she said. (Doer grew testy when I brought up Enns, retorting, “She would say that if it was ten times that amount.”)
Enns thinks that Doer was, in essence, a press-release premier, more concerned with flashy announcements—“things that make people smile,” as she put it—than substantive policy. Jared Wesley, who takes a broadly favourable view of Doer’s premiership, conceded that Doer “has no real policy legacy.” [my emphasis added] Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director for the non-profit Wilderness Committee, echoed that assessment. “The entirety of his term was incremental—little decisions,” Reder said.

It’s the sort of thing you expect a professional environmentalist to say about a career politician. But Reder has a point: those familiar with Doer’s political ideals say he sees compromise as a virtue in its own right. For example, during his tenure as premier, the Manitoba government raised the minimum wage from $6 an hour in 2000 to $9 in 2009—a steady, gradual increase that managed to annoy both anti-poverty activists and the business community.

("Our Tar-Sands Man in Washington" Eric Andrew-Gee (January 16, 2012) Maisonneuve.)
Duck after landing in a tailing pond.

1, 600 birds have landed on the tailing pond
of the Syncrude's Aurora (oil sands bitumen)

Image Source: CBC
Gary Doer doesn't hold back when delivering the tired, industry lines against people who care about North America's land, water, and air.
In his ambassadorial role, Doer has become skilled at painting critics of his Washington agenda as extremists. In October 2010, when CTV asked him why environmentalists opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, Doer replied, “Of course, some people that are opposed to all fossil fuels, and some people that are opposed to the oil sands, are trying to use this expansion here in Washington and asking for the administration to not approve this pipeline.”


But his assessment isn’t fair to some of the pipeline’s more unlikely detractors. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns—senators from conservative Nebraska—have been sharply critical of the initial proposed route for Keystone XL, which would have run through the Ogallala aquifer, an underground water reservoir that stretches over eight states and provides drinking water for 82 percent of the area’s population. Much of the aquifer sits under Nebraska and covers all but a few slivers of the state’s territory. The senators were concerned that the oil could leak into the Midwest’s water supply. Although the Canadian Embassy said these worries were unfounded, in November TransCanada agreed to change Keystone XL’s proposed route to avoid the Ogallala reservoir.


The Canadian ambassador, however, is flatly dismissive of his detractors—especially those who accuse him of hypocrisy. “I don’t have to respond to them,” he said of environmentalists. “People should be judged by what they do, not by people putting their hand on the horn.” His public insults have sometimes alienated activists, and, evidently, the embassy is most comfortable reaching out to oil companies. Shawn Howard, a spokesman at TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, said the Canadian Embassy had consulted him for information on the pipeline, like how much it would cost and how many jobs it would create. “Sometimes there are requests for information, so we’ll provide them with facts,” Howard said. Now Doer touts the same job-creation number—twenty thousand—that TransCanada advertises. The company told the Washington Post that the number comprises thirteen thousand direct jobs and seven thousand supply-chain jobs; the State Department, on the other hand, estimates the number of direct jobs at five to six thousand.

The ambassador’s team is less interested in working with environmentalists. Danielle Droitsch, a former director of US policy at the Pembina Institute, said she has had three meetings with Doer’s staff, none of which the embassy sought out. In 2010, she visited the embassy with two First Nations representatives from northern Alberta—one from the Mikisew Cree, one from the Dene. They spoke to staffers about the air and water pollution from the tar sands, and the deleterious effect they have had on indigenous people’s health. The staffers nodded and smiled politely. “I think you could call it slightly uncomfortable,” Droitsch said mildly. “I can remember thinking, We don’t expect a lot from them.”

First Nations group protesting the Athabasca oil sands.

Alberta Health has launched an investigation
into what's causes above normal cancer rates in
First Nations communities downstream from the oil sands.

Image SourceCensored News Special Edition
...later in the speech [to the Dallas Business Club], Doer started into his familiar defence of the tar sands—and his typical swipes at green critics. “You hear environmental concerns, and I consider myself pretty close to being in touch with the environment,” he said, before launching into one of his favourite anecdotes. “I heard a Hollywood actress that’s gorgeous, gorgeous”—he paused and balled his face up for emphasis, as the crowd snickered—“in a panel in Copenhagen say she weaned herself completely off of fossil fuels. She was on this panel and nobody challenged her, because she was, in fact, gorgeous.” The audience’s laughter grew louder. “But the reality is,” Doer finished, grinning, “that’s a long kayak ride from Hollywood to Copenhagen.”

("Our Tar-Sands Man in Washington" Eric Andrew-Gee (January 16, 2012) Maisonneuve.)
I have no idea whether Doer's last anecdote is a real story, a purely fictional joke, or an exaggerated account of something that happened. One thing is clear: Doer is firmly at the side of Harper/big oil. Using a folksy, populist style to denigrate "Hollywood elites" in front of country club elites is the epitome of dirty oil's double standard.

Good ol' Gary must be making Harper very, very proud.

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