In the war of words that the Conservative government has engaged in with groups that dare oppose its extraction uber alles economic strategy related to tarsands development and shipping of the resulting gunk by rail and pipeline to reach export markets, terms like “eco-terrorist“ and “enemies of Canada” have been deployed with reckless abandon.
This confrontational attitude apparently extends to law enforcement agencies like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP that regard environmental activists as a significant domestic terrorist threat.
What to make of the news then that former B.C. Conservative MP Chuck Strahl (pictured), who left politics before the 2011 election and was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June 2012 to head the non-partisan Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) which provides civilian oversight of CSIS’s operations, is also a registered lobbyist for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership.
As a cabinet minister, Strahl had dealings with Enbridge as recently as 2010. Under federal Conflict of Interest rules, he shouldn’t have had any dealings with the energy giant for a full two years after his retirement. Yet according to Democracy Watch, which filed a complaint against Strahl the other day with ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, Strahl has admitted he started to work for Enbridge in 2011.
As head of SIRC, which reports to Parliament on all activities undertaken by CSIS, Strahl has access to pretty much all the intelligence gathered by CSIS short of cabinet secrets. And Demoracy Watch’s complaint also alleges that “Mr. Strahl’s work with Enbridge while being Chair of SIRC while CSIS is investigating opponents of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline causes conflicts of interest.”
Given the over-heated rhetoric that the Harper government has regularly engaged in to demean and dismiss Canadians exercising their democratic right to argue for a more balanced approach to economic development that respects the importance of the environment to our long-term well-being, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Unfortunately, the current ethics commissioner isn’t much of a boat-rocker so Strahl will likely be able to continue serving the interests of private industry while simultaneously purporting to protect Canadians from unlawful incursions into their lives by CSIS.