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Archive for May 4th, 2008

Duck disaster sinks Alberta government’s credibility

Posted by mhudema on May 4, 2008

Graham Thomson
Calgary Herald

If they ever dredge Syncrude’s toxic tailings ponds to recover the bodies of this week’s 500 dead birds, they might also discover something else: the Alberta government’s credibility on oilsands development. It’s lying at the bottom of the tailings ponds, as much a victim of deadly waste and questionable environmental policies as the ducks themselves.

It’ll take more than a good soap-and-water scrubbing to restore any lustre to this tarnished credibility, let alone life. When dealing with what even the environment minister deemed to be a “tragedy,” the government has been by turns secretive, defensive and combative — when it should have been simply sorry, sorry, sorry.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on the other hand, seems to understand the political effectiveness of throwing yourself at the mercy of the court of public opinion. “It’s obviously a terrible tragedy and I think we and a lot of people are upset about it,” Harper told reporters at a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday.

“I think we expect better, to be quite honest. This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening.”

Harper wasn’t making excuses or downplaying the seriousness of the incident. You got the impression he understood the public outrage and was sincerely interested in helping find ways to stop it happening again. Interestingly enough, that’s actually how the Alberta government first responded on Tuesday in a news conference with Premier Ed Stelmach and Environment Minister Rob Renner.

The two looked upset and made a point of saying they were alerted to the disaster not by Syncrude, but by an anonymous tip. Stelmach promised to take tough action if the company had broken government regulations.

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