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14078Tories quietly lobby U.S. to stop Arctic wildlife refuge oil drilling

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  • Don
    Oct 1, 2008
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      Tories quietly lobby U.S. to stop Arctic wildlife refuge oil drilling
      Yet Harper government publicly silent on the issue during 21/2 years in power

      Mike Blanchfield
      Canwest News Service

      Wednesday, October 01, 2008

      OTTAWA -- Canada's Conservative government has been quietly lobbying U.S. lawmakers in Washington against calls to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- calls Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin supports.

      Canada has traditionally opposed drilling in the pristine reserve. Yet the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been publicly quiet on the issue during its 21/2 years in power even as it pushes an aggressive Arctic sovereignty agenda for Canada that includes a greater military presence and economic development.

      Harper himself was not asked about ANWR and did not state a position on the drilling issue during his most recent pre-election tour of the Arctic this past summer.

      But documents obtained by the Canwest News Service show that the Conservative government continued to oppose drilling in ANWR as recently as this past winter as it was monitoring the U.S. presidential primaries.

      The Foreign Affairs Department's most recent "Advocacy Plan" for the Canadian Embassy in Washington lists "opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" as one of Canada's top environmental objectives with the United States.

      With both countries embroiled in national elections, the emergence of the plan comes as the two American vice-presidential candidates, Palin and Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, and Canada's five federal leaders are due to take part in a series of televised debates this week. The U.S. VP showdown and Canada's English-language leaders debate are both taking place on Thursday.

      The document was given to Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin under Access To Information.

      It lays out Canada's "strategic representation and engagement" plan with the U.S., on a range of issues including heading off any potential trade barriers in agriculture and dealing with such trade irritants as softwood lumber.

      The plan targets "U.S. elected officials [federal and state]" as well as unspecified "decision-makers" and "key influencers" among media, lobbyists and academics.

      Canada has traditionally opposed drilling in the Alaskan refuge because it would affect the habitat of the porcupine caribou herd in the Yukon, which borders ANWR.

      Drilling for domestic sources of oil has emerged as an issue in the U.S. presidential race as both Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain and his Democratic opponent Senator Barack Obama face pressure to bring relief to rising prices at the pumps. Both nominees also want to break U.S. reliance on Middle East oil and gas.

      Obama has said he would tolerate some drilling, but not in ANWR, and only as a compromise as part of a broader plan to foster alternative energy sources.

      McCain has pushed hard for drilling, but he continues to oppose doing so in ANWR -- something that also puts him at odds with his Alaskan running mate, a difference the two Republicans have yet to reconcile.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]