CSIS to Big Oil: never say never again to pipelines

The federal government and its spy agency spent half of the time at a classified national security briefing for energy companies to talk about "challenges" created by environmental groups, government records obtained by PressProgress show.

And the theme of the day-long "classified briefing for energy and utilities sector stakeholders," held in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada and the RCMP on November 17, 2011 at the Ottawa headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), didn't mince words: "North American energy resources development at risk."

The entire morning was blocked off to discuss "challenges to energy projects from environmental groups," the agenda, released by NRCan under access to information law and attached below, shows.

The afternoon was split between an RCMP update about national security criminal investigations and a roundtable discussion led by lawyers for the Canadian Forces, CSIS and the Department of Justice about "the legal challenges of infrastructure protection: collecting evidence for prosecutions in the Canadian experience."

The focus back in 2011 on environmental groups in the classified briefing for the country's energy companies wasn't just a one-time deal. The Vancouver Observer reported last November of "vigorous spying" on tar sands activists and organizations since December 2012.

Internal emails from the National Energy Board, covering the period of December 2012 to April 2013 and released to the newspaper under access to information law, shows the NEB "coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents" to the tar sands and "actively coordinated" with officials from Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corporation, the Vancouver Observer reported.

Targeted groups included ForestEthics, LeadNow, Dogwood and the Council of Canadians.

Speaking of spying and Enbridge (the sponsor for the breakfast at the follow-up classified briefing for energy stakeholders on May 23, 2013), the company is back in the news this week.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, who chairs the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the watchdog of Canada's spy agency CSIS, is Enbridge's newest lobbyist, hired last month to lobby the provincial government on behalf of its subsidiary, Northern Gateway Pipelines L.P.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to spywatcher in 2012, Strahl was aware of possible conflicts of interest, given he was building his new consultancy business after leaving electoral politics in 2011.

He told the National Post he had developed a system to "double make-sure" to protect himself and the public from conflicts of interest. Part of the system was that he "won't lobby" governments.

Nathan Cullen, the NDP's House Leader and MP from British Columbia, took to Twitter on Sunday to ask the obvious question about Strahl.

Chair of the same spy agency that spies on opponents of #Enbridge now lobbying 4... Enbridge. Conflict of Interest?

Classified CSIS/RCMP briefing for energy stakeholders by PressProgress