How Tides Canada Controls the Secret North American Tar Sands Coalition

Stainsby, Macdonald
http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/16/how-tides-canada-controls-the-secret-north-american-tar-sands-coalition/

Publisher:  Counter Punch
Date Written:  16/10/2013
Year Published:  2013  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX15243

Mainstream environmental groups are being positioned to make a bad deal on the Tar Sands.

Abstract: 
Excerpt:

Before Tzeporah Berman began her current position as head of the North American Tar Sands Coalition, Tides Canada had already established these structures to create near-total control over budgets– and therefore, most decisions– for staggering numbers of organizations. Berman was around at the time, working for PowerUp pushing forward offsets garnered by river destruction. Some of the participant organizations already had working partnerships with multiple tar sands producers.

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The Tides Foundation began the NATSC as a project with earmarked funding coming from other large philanthropic foundations. This unelected and unseen structure was created to stand as a vehicle to help forge a similar backroom strategy for and likely negotiation of a “final agreement” to end campaigns against either certain segments or corporations involved in tar sands, likely borrowing from concepts involved in crafting similar deals with forestry corporations.

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The pressure applied and leveraged would be out of the hard work of other people. The people who had worked at a community or first nations grassroots level were not only to not be consulted, if deal negotiations were to happen it was without anyone but a select few ever knowing anything about it. Until the press conference.

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The documents make this point specifically: “This document is confidential” reads the front page of the strategy paper for the single most important climate campaign of their multi-million dollar philanthropy. But the real kicker is the breakdown of the structures. Under the heading “Enroll key decision makers while isolating opponents” : We will not make the decisions to slow and clean up the tar sands – those in positions of authority will.”

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Instead of predictions about the terms of a sell-out, the focus here should be on the structures as they are described. We know automatically the terms will be detrimental to the needs of the climate or of community, simply because the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Environmental Defense, WWF, CPAWS and other organizations who do more than negotiate backroom deals– but publicly embrace and partner with corporations like Suncor, Nexen, Dow Chemical and more– are leading members. The coalition groups are now under the twin auspices of Tides and Pew funding, as well Tides and Pew membership as further “partners.”

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This further blurring of foundations who are increasingly "activist" in their own right, speaking and campaigning as “just another green group” is accelerating. In the past few years, new brazen language has come from Tides Canada, previously unthinkable: “At Tides Canada we are working to bridge these two polarized camps (environmentalists and tar sands corporations– MS). As a convener of diverse interests, we’ve played this role before, most notably in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.1”

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“Purchasing” staff means that a person who is acting in the capacity of the directives of the paymaster coalition is never to public refer to the actual job, or even the organization. As such, even though someone took a leave from, say, the Pembina Institute to become a coordinator within the Tar Sands Coalition steering committee, and cashed paycheques from Tides referencing this work, they would publicly identify with their former employing organization, the Pembina Institute.

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Michael Marx is the former “lead coordinator” from the tar sands steering committee, above the American and Canadian coordinators. These three, in collaboration with media coordinators, form the power nucleus. Other foundations centralize campaign contributions to the Tides Coalition, and will re-direct appeals for tar sands funding to the national coordinators from this one group.

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The “Tar Sands Solutions Network” appears to be the vehicle for a public face to negotiate a “win-win” deal. A couple of years ago, the Mediacoop.ca and later on the Globe and Mail reported a leak of an attempted “fireside chat” that was to happen with no fanfare, media or record of its existence. This chat was to involve some of the largest players in energy corporations operating in the tar sands, “with beer in hand” alongside some of the more compromised and right wing environmental organizations.

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The coalition is the same invisible Trojan Horse that so many “collaborative model” agreements have come from in the past. Berman is simply the public face of capitalism’s last ditch attempt to save itself. The system needs reinvention as it collapses under strain, and the new class of would be green capitalists seek to emerge out of this crisis like Henry Ford did from the Depression. Exploitation of the working class, continued indigenous colonialism at home, war mongering imperialism, permanently expanding growth economics– all with climate effects being transferred onto the over-exploited majority world– this is all “just the way things are,” because “we don’t have time to try and transform the system,” and so on are invoked in defending a strategy of accommodation to capital.

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Big Energy’s power is a reflection of the centrality of energy, leading to influence. It is a logic completely at peace with accumulation of profit and the dominance of capital. More than “not a rogue industry,” it is the flagship, the pinnacle of industries under late industrial capitalism.

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Growth is the elephant in the living room we must confront. We must reject a “green shift” that panders to “have your cake and eat it too” eco-populism, the lefty-green rhetoric of a new green bourgeoisie trying to burst forth.

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Capital is most dominant in the North American political party system. The pro-Obama language of the “Tar Sands Solutions Network” likely indicates a nod to board member Bill McKibben, whose own Rockefeller funded, pro-Obama organizing in 350.org has become stuck on a hamster wheel chasing the Keystone XL. Simply put, the same PR professional thinking below the border that designed the Democrats’ Moveon.org are now more than likely having influence on crafting part of the over-all trajectory of tar sands big money organizing. Brand Obama sells, but the products are made of oil.

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Impacted indigenous communities are building opposition to Line 9 expansion with allies of theirs from outlying communities; People in Utah & Texas are engaged in creative responses of resistance to proposed tar sands mining or pipeline construction; indigenous territory has been reclaimed and rebuilt blocking all energy pipeline construction: Tar sands oil, fracked gas, none of it is being allowed across Unist’ot’en Territory near the Pacific Ocean coastline. There are other paths being walked.

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The equivalent of the Canadian Tea Party crowd has filled newspaper columns with stories to frighten you and I about the power of American money. Much of the foundation-led anti-tar sands cash has been coming from the United States, and as such we are supposed to cringe at the origin. Yet it would not matter if the paper trail led one to the moon– resources in and of themselves are not the issue. Were spending resources to be the issue, big energy companies and the federal government within Canada itself have vastly outspent the foundations on both sides of the 49th parallel, promoting unfettered tar sands. The problem is the distortion of active resistance, and the hi-jacking of a public process.

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