There’s secrecy and then there’s secrecy: Bilderberg vs the Redford/Clark meeting

What’s up with Canadian premiers and their infatuation with secret meetings?   There are two types of secret meetings:  those that give the premiers an opportunity to test drive a contentious position to gauge political support (a “trial balloon”) and those that are a bizarre waste of time because they undermine transparency and public confidence.

First prize for a bizarre waste of time goes to Ms Redford who blew off a meeting with Mr Mulcair, the most vocal (and one might argue most cogent) opponent to the development of the Alberta oil sands, so she could attend the secretive Bilderberg conference.  Ms Redford justified the trip as an opportunity to meet with politicians, financial leaders and academics to discuss monetary policy, ecological challenges and responsible development of natural resources.  To silence those of us who were concerned about the “cone of silence” aspect, she promised to report back on her discussions in due course.

Ms Redford does not disappoint.  The Final Report on her Bilderberg junket is now available.  It was posted on the Alberta government website—late Friday and with no accompanying press release—and sank like a stone.  The reason for the lack of fanfare is obvious—the dearth of information is breathtaking.  Strip out the sections labelled overview, mission objectives and the delegation (if you can call Ms Redford and her executive assistant a “delegation”), and the report is exactly two sentences (52 words) long.  Here it is:

The Premier’s participation advanced the Alberta government’s more aggressive effort to engage world decision makers in Alberta’s strategic interests, and to talk about Alberta’s place in the world.  The mission sets the stage for further relationship-building with existing partners and potential partners with common interests in investment, innovation and public policy.


One could be forgiven for thinking that the PC’s $14 million PR department simply took the May press release that said Ms Redford was going to Bilderberg and changed the verb tense to say Ms Redford went to Bilderberg.  Why it took almost 2 months to accomplish this feat of PR wizardry is a mystery, but there it is.

All kidding aside, I suspect the reason why Ms Redford’s report is nothing more than bafflegab stems from the fact that the Bilderberg conference really is a secret meeting and its attendees are sworn to secrecy (known in biz-speak as the requirement of confidentiality so that the participants can speak freely)…so that’s that.

An example of the “trial balloon” secret meeting is the BC premier’s meeting with Alison Redford earlier this week.  All the premiers are heading to Halifax next week to attend the Council of the Federation meeting.  Ms Redford’s Canadian Energy Strategy and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline will be on the agenda.  Rather than wait to meet in Halifax the BC premier, Ms Clark, “…secretly flew into Edmonton on Thursday to meet with…Alison Redford.  She also stopped in Saskatoon earlier that day for a meeting with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who supports the pipeline”.*

Ms Redford needs BC’s support for the Northern Gateway pipeline but it would be political suicide for Ms Clark to provide it unless she gets something meaningful back in return.  So far BC voters are not convinced that more jobs outweigh the environmental risks.

Ms Clark may have launched the following trial balloon:  BC should receive a share of Alberta’s royalty revenues (perhaps in the form of a surcharge on royalties) generated by the oil companies developing the oil sands.**

Oh to be a fly on the wall!  Ms Clark:  Alison, there’s no way I can sell Northern Gateway to the BC people unless they get some long term economic benefits, say a share of the royalty revenue stream…?  Ms Redford:  You’ve got to be kidding!  I’m not getting enough now to cover the cost of new hospitals, new schools, the highway to Fort McMurray…and don’t get me started on those cranky old people who want decent food.  Ms Clark:  I’ve sat on the fence too long and that wretch Adrian Dix is crucifying me so unless I come home from the premiers meeting with something for all BC-ites, I’m cooked my dear, and so are you.  Ms Redford:  This conversation is …incredibly frustrating!

Actually Ms Redford really did say that last bit.  The National Post reports that “Ms Redford came out of the meeting disappointed that Clark has refused to state a position on the pipeline.  “It’s incredibly frustrating”.  I suspect Ms Redford is being a little coy.  She probably knows the position Ms Clark will take in Halifax—and she doesn’t like it.  If Ms Clark’s “share the royalties” solution gains the support of Ontario and Quebec (and why shouldn’t it), the first concrete example of Redford’s Canadian Energy Strategy will be unpalatable to the oilsands producers and hence to the PC government.  Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

That’s why our premiers like secret meetings.  In the hands of a skillful politician they can deliver a powerful political result.   Unfortunately the opposite is also true, in the hands of less savvy politicians they can lead to unacceptable political fallout.  Politicians will continue to create public policy under the cloak of secrecy.  It’s up to us to keep a watchful eye on who they’re meeting with and for what purpose.

*National Post July 21, 2012 A10.

**This is sheer speculation on my part, but it’s something I would do if I were Ms Clark.      

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17 Responses to There’s secrecy and then there’s secrecy: Bilderberg vs the Redford/Clark meeting

  1. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    So hopefully with my next box of cereal I will get my secret decoder ring and can go to the meetings to. What ever happened to honesty, integrity and working for the people?

    • Good question Rose Marie…too many politicians see the main goal as getting re-elected, which means who you know and what they can do for you financially takes priority over honesty, integrity and working for the people. Sad statement of affairs.

  2. Midge says:

    don’t forget Redford’s own other secret meeting with Ontario premier McGinty. I don’t like my elected officials playing hide and seek with the people they work FOR, which would be me. I have yet to see that “transparency” has become more than a buzz word that sounds good, but means nothing.

    • Ah yes, I’d forgotten about the McGinty meeting. Seems to me Ms Redford is trying to get the other provincial ministers aligned with her Canadian Energy Strategy, but I don’t see how Alberta’s goals (at least as stated by Redford) will align with those of Ontario, Quebec or BC unless she finds a way to send Northern Gateway east.

  3. jillbrowne says:

    Thanks, Susan, especially for the Bilderberg update, which is disappointing in its brevity.

    Does the word “constitution” light up in your brain when provincial premiers are discussing interprovincial pipelines?

    • Absolutely! Ms Redford may have opened Pandora’s Box when she introduced the Canadian Energy Strategy. Having said that, it makes sense for all of the provinces to act in concert with respect to laws and regulations that protect the environment and living things (flora, fauna, us). These are sacred–borders are meaningless.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    The Bilderberg report is what they authorize her to say and that is it. It was obvious from the get go that nothing would come out of it.
    In his book ‘On Equilibrium’, John Ralston Saul writes the following ‘The qualitative difference between humans and others is our ability to consider. By that I mean to consider not just our talents and characteristics, but also our lives and our societies, perhaps most obviously, our actions. To consider rather than be driven by inner forces. And to consider is not to reason, although consideration may sometimes have reason within it’.
    Yes to consider OUR ACTIONS. Judging by what we witness almost daily these days it makes me wonder.
    Until we Albertans, realize that our government is not at all protecting our interests and we have to make them to, nothing will change. They do not need to and meetings like Biderberg are just to remind them that the interests of the people are absolutely irrelevant. One just has to look around the world to know this is not just a belief, it is a reality.
    It will be interesting to see the spin that will be produced to get all these pipelines built.

  5. Carlos, thanks for the great quote. Albertans, actually all people, need “to consider” and then apply reason to all they hear from government and industry (by that I mean all industries, not just energy). That means paying attention and speaking out when something doesn’t make sense. It seems to me that more people are picking up the thread again. I’m interested in seeing how these people will impact the pipeline plans.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Yes Susan you are absolutely right. There is no doubt that the world is changing and it will regardless of Bilderbergs and whatever else. In the thirties people fought for their rights as workers, now we have to fight for real Democracy. Unfortunately people at the top can be cruel and senseless but people’s resilience is infinite in times of crisis.
    You are right about other industries and everything else that sustains our lives as humans. We have to CONSIDER more rather than less like our leaders prefer.
    For those of you interested in consideration, please read Rick Bell’s article in the Edmonton Sun – Sunday edition about our highness Danielle Smith. Coming from the Sun it makes it more interesting.

  7. Elaine Fleming says:

    The secret meetings of the various leaders sure fuels a lot of speculation. It’s too bad Alison Redford didn’t have a (open!) meeting with Thomas Mulcair when he was here having a look at the oil sands. It is vital that our leadership take a look at the big picture, and the longterm picture, of our energy/environment/economy. As you say, Mulcair is no dummy, and he could very well be our next Prime Minister.
    We, and a few friends went to hear him speak when he was passing through Edmonton, running for the NDP leadership. We were pretty impressed with his experience, and courage. He’s not afraid to stand up and say what needs to be said. Actually, all the candidates, I thought, were impressive- Nikki Ashton and Nathan Cullen are very strong. Mulcair could have a bright, talented cadre of “lieutenants” if he gets to office.
    Romeo Saganash, who also ran for the leadership, showed that the First Nations people are coming into their own and will be a force to contend with. Speaking of which, the Edmonton Journal today ran an article today “First Nations Leaders Shocked by Oilsands”, describing the tour several First Nations councillors from B.C. took of the massive site. One of them, the chief of the Wet’suwet’en, stated, “You can read as much as you want, listen to as much as you want, but until you see it, you won’t believe it.” His meaning wasn’t that it is really magnificent.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against development of energy resources, and I’m as guilty as the next guy of driving everywhere and taking the odd airplane ride. But we can’t just go blindly ahead with this kind of development and hang the consequences. We need to get going on alternative, clean energy. And our leaders need to lead on these issues. Canada has great human potential and we are blessed with natural resources. But we are at the crossroads and we have to make the right decisions now. Or, as they say, we are “screwed”. And, as Chief Na’Moks said, “…money is not going to bring back what is lost.”

    • Mulcair is definitely not afraid to speak his mind (which is good) and this gives others the courage to come forward. The Gateway pipeline hit another speed bump today when Christy Clark’s BC government came out with 5 conditions which must be satisfied before BC will support the pipeline. These included using world-class environmental protection systems and addressing aboriginal rights but the kicker was that BC must get its “fair share” of the economic benefits (this was exactly where I thought she’d go).
      Clark didn’t say how much a “fair share” amounted to, but her environment minister noted that B.C. bears 100% of the marine environmental risk and 58% of the on-land environmental risk. I’m betting it’s somewhere between 33% to 50% of the benefit.

      Redford’s response was forget it. She’d protect the royalty revenue on behalf of Albertans. This makes it sound like BC is demanding a cut out of the royalties paid to Alberta (and that does have constitutional implications), however, at this stage we don’t know what BC is proposing. If it’s something like a surcharge based on barrels of product shipped, it might sail past the constitutional hurdles. After all, every province is free to impose a tax on activities within its borders. But that’s just idle speculation on my part, I’ll leave this up to the constitutional lawyers and tax experts.

      Lord, what I’d give to be a fly on the wall at the Halifax premiers’ conference!

  8. William Munsey says:

    Interesting to re-read this after the Premiers’ Conference. The thing that struck me was the Clark never once mentioned BC’s fair share coming from Alberta’s royalties. The only other alternative would be to have Enbridge pay rent on the pipeline, which would then be passed on to the producers and then to consumers.

    The other sad thing which strikes me is that the environment again takes a back seat to monetary considerations. “Sure, if we get money out of it, we can overlook the risks to the environment.” Again… the deciding principle is money. We humans ought to CONSIDER more than that.

  9. Will, welcome to the Soapbox. You make a very important point in your comment that Clark never suggested that BC’s share of the benefit should come from Alberta’s royalties (in fact that’s the topic of this week’s post). Redford re-framed the dispute as a constitutional battle over the right to royalties. This allowed her to pit Alberta against BC instead of dealing with the question of who should pay the benefit (the oil companies riding the pipe in my opinion). Not exactly the kind of behaviour one expects from the head of government who is supposed to have the best interests of the people at heart.
    Thanks for adding your perspective. Hope to see you again.

    • berryfarmer says:

      Hah, you say “hope to see you again” now… but you’ll probably get sick of me. I am–after all–but a simple saskatoon berry farmer. My opinions and points of view don’t matter much… but I can’t seem to let them go.

      • Ah but what the world needs is more people like you and the other contributers to this blog expressing their opinions and fewer “experts” who are so wedded to a particular point of view that they never think to ask the simple questions…like why do we need to develop the oil sands so quickly, if at all?

  10. Notsheeple says:

    Warning! Elected Canadian leaders should not be allowed to attend secret meetings, where foreign bankers, and politicians, decide on new policy for Canadians, that is “treason”. We had a political leader from BC attend the bilderberg meeting (the dishonorable Gordon Cambell), who then returned to Canada and proceeded to ram an illegal tax down the throats of British Columbians. We all new that was the real reason for his invite to the world elite meeting, which is attended by the worlds most powerful people. I quite literally called it at a local chamber of commerce meeting, where I said on the record “the only reason he was invited is so that they can reassure, and promise him, a very cushy future, if only he goes ahead with harmonization”. I also noted that he would likely get a comfy position as a chair, or ambassador, as that seems to be their way of bribing officals. Well I can tell you I am not psychic, I am just a realist, who pays close attention to what orders our government takes from foreign powers, whether it be the Bilderberg, IMF, or world bank. It was of interest to me that quite a few of the local chamber approached me later to say “wow, did you ever call that one”, but not one of them actually seemed concerned, it was just business as usual, it kind of goes to show how easily people accept treason, and corruption. I still dont, and never will.

    • Agreed. It’s difficult to come up with any rationale in support of our politicians (in their capacity as our government representatives no less) attending secret meetings with industry magnates and financiers. However, as you point out at the end of your comments most of the public do not appear to be concerned. Perhaps they think that politicians will have their best interests at heart, but this is naive. Instead we should be doing what Jon Lovett urged the graduating class at Pitzer College to do–carry yourself through your life with integrity and call out others (be they politicians, businessmen, whoever) when they are acting in their own self interest. Thanks for your comments Notsheeple and welcome to the Soapbox!

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