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COMMENTARY · 25th April 2013
Miranda Holmes
It can hardly come as a surprise to anyone that governments – like corporations – employ spin to portray their actions in the best possible light (and to cast their opponents in the worst possible light). Nor is it news that many corporations – and the PR companies they employ – operate a revolving door for helpful politicians.

So, should it come as any surprise to learn, as Joyce Nelson reveals in the current issue of Watershed Sentinel, that Peter Kent was appointed as a senior lobbyist by PR giant Hill & Knowlton while he was running as a Conservative candidate in 2008?

Of course, Hill & Knowlton (the company behind Enbridge’s justifiably spoofed ‘Pathway to the Future’ ad campaign) had no way of knowing their man Kent would win his riding and be appointed as the Harper government’s environment minister in January 2011.

That said, they – and their various tar sands clients – must have been pleased with his opening salvo. As Nelson reports, within hours of his appointment Kent was telling CTV: “I’m not going to stand by while outsiders slander Canada, Canadian practices and values and our ethical oil products.”

Kent’s performance to date has alarmed many environmentalists. They point out that the oil and gas industry already has its own minister (Joe Oliver) and that Kent’s real job, as Keith Stewart of Greenpeace has observed, “is to be the champion of environmental protection within government.”

Good luck with that.

In January 2013 Greenpeace passed on to CBC News a letter (obtained through an access to information request) which revealed that in late 2011, the oil and gas industry had requested changes be made to the National Energy Board Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

As Nelson reports, the letter, addressed to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, came from a group called the Energy Framework Initiative (EFI), an umbrella group for major Canadian oil, gas and pipeline associations “The purpose of our letter,” EFI wrote, “is to express our shared views on the near-term opportunities before the government to address regulatory reform for major energy industries in Canada.”

The letter continues: “The basic approach embodied in existing legislation is out-dated. At the heart of most existing legislation is a philosophy of prohibiting harm; ‘environmental’ legislation is almost entirely focused on preventing bad things from happening rather than enabling responsible outcomes. This results in a position of adversarial prohibition, rather than enabling collaborative conservation to achieve agreed goals.”

Well, yes, historically the focus of environmental legislation actually was environmental protection. Apparently no more.

At the time, the CBC reported: “Within ten months of the request the industry had almost everything it wanted.” Omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 rewrote the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, gutted the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and changed the National Energy Board Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Nelson observes: “In a real democracy, this incriminating letter would be a major news story across the country. But in the mock democracy of Harperland, the letter has effectively disappeared.” It’s difficult to disagree with her.

Smoke and mirrors

In 1953, Hill & Knowlton launched a PR offensive designed to convince government regulators and the public that there was no provable link between tobacco smoking and cancer. A team of supposedly independent scientists (bought and paid for by Hill & Knowlton on behalf of the tobacco industry) encouraged the public to “smoke without fear”.

As Nelson reports, “that same PR strategy (and often, the same group of scientists) has since been used to challenge scientific evidence on acid rain, destruction of the ozone layer, toxicity of DDT, second-hand smoke, and climate change – thereby delaying regulatory action, muddying the science, and confusing the public on environmental issues. Under this strategy, established science becomes just another competing ‘side’ in an issue, while corporate financed scientific studies or bought scientific opinion are granted equal weight by the media.

“But in Canada, that time-tested Hill & Knowlton PR strategy is being taken much further by the Harper cabinet itself, including Peter Kent, with government scientists being muzzled, fired en masse, and even their research facilities dismantled and destroyed.”

The line between spin doctoring and propaganda (assuming there is one) can be so fine as to appear invisible.

Joseph Goebbels once infamously stated: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Nazi propaganda minister went on to say, even more chillingly: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (Emphasis added.)

Welcome to Harperland.

Miranda Holmes is an associate editor of Watershed Sentinel magazine. To read Joyce Nelson’s exposé of Hill and Knowlton’s role in promoting the tar sands, go to Image © Greenpeace August 2012
Well Put, Miranda
Comment by Al Lehmann on 29th April 2013
As the history of this government progresses, the evidence continues to accumulate as to their utter corruption.

Harper's Conservatives (as opposed to people who simply wish to conserve something of value) are a menace to democracy in Canada. Job #1 is to get rid of them in 2015.
Tyranny is real in Canada
Comment by Canadian Citizen on 27th April 2013

Controversial anti-terrorism tools revived as bill passes
Preventive arrests and investigative hearings return, terrorism-related penalties increase
CBC News

Vote on anti-terror bill put off to Wednesday
Supreme Court upholds anti-terrorism law

A bill that would revive some provisions of Canada's Anti-terrorism Act passed in the House of Commons Wednesday night.

The Liberals joined the Conservatives to pass the bill — known as S-7, the combating terrorism act — by a vote of 183 to 93. It would bring back two central provisions that were originally instituted by the Jean Chrétien government after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York in 2001 but were "sunsetted" after a five-year period.

One allowed for "preventive detention," meaning someone can be held without charge for up to three days just on suspicion of being involved in terrorism. The person can then be bound by certain probationary conditions for up to a year, and if he or she refuses the conditions, can be jailed for 12 months.

Recent News Update:

Posted: Apr 25, 2013 9:04 PM ET

Senior Mounties told not to meet MPs without prior approval

Prince Philip presents regimental colours in Toronto
Military parade marks key War of 1812 battle

Posted: Apr 27, 2013 9:05 AM ET


Canada is no longer a independent sovereign country.

With the Liberal Premier Cristy Clark i will vote NDP just to get rid of the Liberals.

Comment by Terry on 26th April 2013
I think you should read the definition in Wikipedia and you'll find when you compare the two we have authoriantism . Now even the RCMP must ask permission from the harper government to speak to a member of parliament .
Definition of totalitarianism
Comment by david dickinson on 26th April 2013
Totalitarianism is when members of the government profess to know better than the citizens and routinely over-rule the wishes of the citizens to advance a government agenda. Those who dare to challenge the government agenda are subject to ridicule and name calling. Those citizens who attempt to exercise freedom of expression are labelled as "dissidents" and "foreign agitators."

National Socialism (extreme right-wing nationalism) is not the only political system that relies on totalitarianism. Arguably, the system of governance advanced by the Conservative Party of Canada is more like Stalin's Communists than Hitler's Nazis: big government characterized by centralized control and an ever-increasing number of people put in jail for the most dubious of crimes (that is, non-violent crimes).
Comment by ed on 26th April 2013
How do you define nazi?
Comment by saxendi on 25th April 2013
Please don't use the word Nazi, when you don't even know what it means...