Canadian Politicians Quietly Cancel 18-Month Investigation Into Tar Sands Pollution, Tear Up Draft Report

From the Montreal Gazette yesterday, this very alarming story:

Federal politicians from the government and opposition benches have mysteriously cancelled an 18-month investigation into oilsands pollution in water and opted to destroy draft copies of their final report, Canwest News Service has learned.

The aborted investigation comes as new questions are being raised about the Harper government’s decision to exempt a primary toxic pollutant found in oilsands tailings ponds from a regulatory agenda.

The government is in the process of categorizing industry-produced substances that could either be toxic or harmful, but has excluded naphthenic acid — a toxin from oilsands operations — from the list, and left it off another list of substances that companies are required to track and report.

The exclusion is “alarming” according to a letter sent Tuesday to Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, since the federal and Alberta governments have already identified it as a primary source of pollution in liquid waste dumped into ponds after companies extract oil from the region. (Click here to read the full story)

Apparently this happened very quietly on June 17, and it took until now for the media to alert Canadians to the proceedings of the federal Environment Committee.  If our federal government was doing its job, they would be more concerned about the health of Canadians living around the toxic tar sands than the health of the oil industry’s bank balance. And if Opposition politicians were doing their job, it wouldn’t be up to CanWest News Service to let Canadians know, after a three week delay, when their government has failed in its job.

Conservative MP James Bezan chairs the Environment Committee. He expressed his “disappointment”  that MPs were unable to agree on the final report, but asserted a curious belief that the committee’s aborted investigation “has still brought important information into the public domain through the hearings and testimony from expert witnesses that have resulted in several independent reports and commentary.”

According to, Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia said

“I . . . have no intention of letting go this subject that should be part and parcel of the true national water strategy Canadians demand and deserve. The Conservative government has a lot of answering to do for its persistent lack of leadership on water in general and on oilsands and water in particular. The Conservative government’s record on water and oilsands has been one of constant denial and foot-dragging.”

The exclusion by the Harper government of naphthenic acids from the list of toxic substances, particularly in light of the fact the United States has recently moved forward with specific reporting requirements for the substance, is hard to understand. The Harper/Prentice mantra about taking action on the environment has, for several years now, been that “we’ll do what the Americans do“. Apparently, this is only true when the Americans aren’t doing anything. Matt Price from Environmental Defense wrote:

Naphthenic acids are one of the main pollutants responsible for the toxicity of tarsands tailings to aquatic organisms, and have been shown to harm liver, heart and brain function in mammals. Naphthenic acids are also very long-lived, taking decades to break down.”

Price also said in the letter that the federal and provincial governments are already allowing some of the toxins to leak into groundwater and surface water.

“It is therefore urgent that all tailings pollutants, and naphthenic acid in particular, be properly assessed and managed to minimize the risk to human and environmental health,” he wrote.

When did it become okay for the Canadian government to blatantly cater to industry and cease looking after the health and well-being of Canadians, and our natural resources?  If this is NOT okay with you, please take action. Write a letter (or an email, but a letter is more effective) or phone your MP, and then contact the MPs on the Environment Committee.

Click on the MP’s name to go to their contact info:

Chair, Environment and Sustainable Development Committee

James Bezan, Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake, Manitoba,



Bernard Bigras, Bloc Quebecois, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Quebec

David McGuinty, Liberal, Ottawa-South, Ontario

Members of Environment and Sustainable Development Committee:

Francis Scarpaleggia, Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis, Quebec

Linda Duncan, NDP MP and Environment Critic, Edmonton-Strathcona, Alberta

Scott Armstrong, Conservative, Cumberland-Colchester-Mosquodoboit

Christian Ouellet, Bloc Quebecois, Brome-Missisquoi, Quebec

Blaine Calkins, Conservative, Wetaskiwin, Saskatchewan

Justin Trudeau, Liberal, Papineau, Quebec

Mark Warawa, Conservative, Langley, B.C.

Jeff Watson, Conservative, Essex, Ontario

Stephen Woodworth, Conservative, Kitchener Centre, Ontario

More links:

Contact info for all Members of Parliament

Satellite Photos of Alberta Tar Sands Tailing Ponds

Indigenous Environmental Network

“Bigger Issues Than Ducks” Alberta Environment Minister tells Middle East Audience

4 Billion Litres a Year: Tar Sands’ Toxic Leakage

0 thoughts on “Canadian Politicians Quietly Cancel 18-Month Investigation Into Tar Sands Pollution, Tear Up Draft Report”

  1. On Montreal TV news, it’s all about doing stupid reports about “it’s summer and it’s hot”. The usual excuse of not having enough time to cover the story doesn’t stand. I guess even Radio-Canada/CBC thinks it’s enough to talk a little about the oil spill down South.

    • I’ve stopped listening to most network news, even the CBC. But I’m still a fan of CBC radio! I used to think it was mainstream American news that was sensationalistic and biased, but it seems that’s what we’re being fed up here now, too. It’s pretty amazing, with the record-breaking temperatures throughout much of North America lately, how “it’s summer and it’s hot” reporting never morphs into an intelligent discussion of climate change. Although The Current did have a good discussion of it the other day – possibly last week Tuesday? I’m going to post the link when I get the chance.


Leave a Comment