Tory MPs storm out of meeting on energy sharing; Canada left short to
aid U.S., says professor
OTTAWA - Amid heated charges of a coverup, Tory MPs on Thursday abruptly
shut down parliamentary hearings on a controversial plan to further
integrate Canada and the U.S.
The firestorm erupted within minutes of testimony by University of
Alberta professor Gordon Laxer that Canadians will be left "to freeze in
the dark" if the government forges ahead with plans to integrate energy
supplies across North America.
He was testifying on behalf of the Alberta-based Parkland Institute
about concerns with the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a
2005 accord by the U.S., Canada and Mexico to streamline economic and
security rules across the continent.
The deal, which calls North American "energy security" a priority,
commits Canada to ensuring American energy supplies even though Canada
itself -- unlike most industrialized nations -- has no national plan or
reserves to protect its own supplies, he argued.
At that point, Tory MP Leon Benoit, chair of the Commons Standing
Committee on International Trade which was holding the SPP hearings,
ordered Laxer to halt his testimony, saying it was not relevant.
Opposition MPs called for, and won, a vote to overrule Benoit's ruling.
Benoit then threw down his pen, declaring, "This meeting is adjourned,"
and stormed out, followed by three of the panel's four Conservative
The remaining members voted to finish the meeting, with the Liberal
Benoit's actions are virtually unprecedented, observers say; at press
time, parliamentary procedure experts still hadn't figured out whether
he had the right to adjourn the meeting unilaterally. Benoit did not
respond to calls for comment.
It's "reckless and irresponsible" of the government not to discuss
protecting Canada's energy supply, says Laxer.
Atlantic Canada and Quebec already have to import 90 per cent of their
supply -- 45 per cent of it from potentially unstable sources such as
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Algeria, Laxer said.
Meanwhile, Canada is exporting 63 per cent of its oil and 56 per cent of
its gas production, mostly to the U.S., he says.
"It's shocking the extent to which the Conservative party will go to
cover up information about the SPP," says NDP MP Peter Julian, who also
sits on the committee.
Other MPs raised concerns about recently revealed plans under the SPP to
raise Canadian limits on pesticide residues to match American rules.
Questions were also raised about whether the effort will open the door
to bulk water exports.
Representatives from the departments of Industry and International Trade
defended the SPP as an effort to protect Canadian jobs in a competitive
global market, without sacrificing standards. They denied charges SPP
negotiations have been secretive, saying civil-society groups are
welcome to offer their input, and referred MPs to the government