Liberal environment minister faces push back over criticism of Scheer meeting

Two prominent attendees of a private meeting organized by a pro-oil advocacy group are pushing back against criticism from Catherine McKenna, the federal environment minister, regarding the involvement of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. 

Attendees of private, pro-oil meeting rebut Catherine McKenna's 'scheming' claim

Calgary financier Brett Wilson, right, is firing back at criticisms levelled by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna regarding a meeting that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had with oil executives and others recently. (Left: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press; right, Terri Trembath/CBC)

Two prominent attendees of a private meeting organized by a pro-oil advocacy group are pushing back against criticism from the federal environment minister regarding the involvement of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. 

Scheer attended the event held at the upscale Azuridge Estate Hotel southwest of Calgary this month, CBC News confirmed. It was hosted by the Modern Miracle Network.

The Globe and Mail, which reported it obtained a copy of the event's agenda, says Scheer gave a keynote address. The newspaper also reported that Scheer's national campaign director and a long-time Conservative organizer both spoke on a panel "about 'rallying the base' by using interest groups that operate independently of the party."

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna responded to the news on social media this week, writing on Twitter that the meeting was "Straight from Harper's playbook."

"Andrew Scheer has been caught scheming behind closed doors with wealthy executives to gut environmental protection laws, silence critics, and make pollution free again," McKenna wrote.

Brett Wilson, a well-known oilpatch financier and a vocal critic of the federal Liberal government, fired back at McKenna's comments on Friday, also on Twitter.

"I was at this retreat," wrote Wilson, chairman of Canoe Financial.

"Scheer gave a standard political speech. There were several senior liberals speaking. Along with several First Nation leaders, etc. The goal was to educate and inform on all matters related to energy. You just don't have a clue, do you...."

In an interview, Wilson said Scheer didn't stay more than five minutes after a question-and-answer session. 

Gary Mar, a former cabinet minister under late Alberta premier Ralph Klein and now president of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, said the meeting was political but not partisan.

"We would make the same policy recommendations to Conservatives as we would to Liberals," Mar said.

"It's nothing that environmentalists haven't done themselves. They sit down with members of Parliament ... on both sides of the aisle and they talk about the things that they want. This is no different."

He called McKenna's comments an "over-exaggeration of a normal political process." 

Meanwhile, Perpetual Energy CEO Susan Riddell Rose told CBC News the annual gathering of the Modern Miracle Network was about touching base on the initiatives the group has underway. She said its purpose is "to help illuminate the positives" of hydrocarbons.

The oil and gas sector has been arguing the economic and social benefits of Canadian energy development as the industry faces increased scrutiny due to concern over its impact on the environment and climate change.