Environmentalist released from oilsands advisory group not related to controversial comments, Notley says
Tzeporah Berman once compared oilsands to Mordor, supports B.C. NDP
With environmentalist Tzeporah Berman let go as an adviser to the Alberta government, the NDP maintains it was because her work was done — and not because of opposition pressures or her controversial comments of past.
The dismissal of Berman and four other group members was announced Friday, with Environment Minister Shannon Phillips saying Berman will be "concluding" her work with the Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG).
Premier Rachel Notley reiterated Saturday that parting ways with Berman had nothing to do with her endorsing the B.C. NDP — a party which is against the TransMountain pipeline expansion — before the provincial election.
"It really didn't," Notley told CBC News Saturday at an availability in Red Deer. "I don't agree with her position on pipelines, but as I've always said, she's nowhere close to the decision about pipelines."
Notley was pressured by the opposition to remove Berman from the committee since her appointment — and the premier consistently refused.
Berman, who also once came under fire for comparing Alberta's oilsands to Mordor from the Lord of the Rings series, was co-chair of an 18-member committee the government appointed to advise the province on development of the oilsands.
The committee, formed last year, concluded its first two phases of consultations. The group concluded emission restrictions should be further enforced the closer the province approaches the 100-megatonne greenhouse gas limit.
Notley said the group was formed with "getting a cross-section of people" in mind — including industry leaders as well as environmentalists like Berman.
'20K too late'
Todd Loewen, the environment critic for the Wildrose Party, said he's pleased Berman is off the committee.
"I think it's great news that she's gone," Loewen told CBC News Saturday. "It's just $20,000 too late."
Berman was paid $23,000 advising the Alberta government, and Loewen said she shouldn't have been on the panel in the first place.
"When you have somebody that's an anti-oil activist who continues to campaign against pipelines, that's somebody we don't need representing the oil industry," he said.
He added the departure of Berman isn't enough. Loewen specifically mentioned Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, as another member of the group who should be let go.
- FROM NOVEMBER 2016: Alberta won't remove Tzeporah Berman from oilsands advisory group
"I don't think the government learned anything," he said. "They have activists involved that are taking taxpayers' money."
But Notley said the mixture of voices was an advantage to the panel. "Her presence in this process helps us say, 'listen, this process has integrity,' " she said. "At the end of the day, it helps us get an ear with some people who would otherwise not listen to us."
And despite her disagreements with Berman, Notley said she stands firm on pipelines.
"I am the premier of Alberta, and that is my absolutely fundamental priority," she said. "I know that it is in the best interest of the people of Alberta for that pipeline to get built."
With files from Robson Fletcher, Zoe Todd & The Canadian Press