Edmonton

Tzeporah Berman, Jason Kenney, spar over past government appointment

B.C.-based environmental activist Tzeporah Berman and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney engaged in a heated social media exchange over the weekend after Berman responded to what she called Kenney’s “weird, pathetic and poisonous obsession” with her.

Berman criticizes Kenney for what she calls his 'weird, pathetic and poisonous obsession' with her

UCP Leader Jason Kenney has frequently used Tzeporah Berman's appointment to the Alberta's Oilsands Advisory Group to question Premier Rachel Notley's commitment to defending the province's energy sector. (CBC )

B.C.-based environmental activist Tzeporah Berman and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney engaged in a heated social media exchange over the weekend after Berman responded to what she called Kenney's "weird, pathetic and poisonous obsession" with her.

On Friday, Kenney posted a timeline on social media about Berman's public statements on the oil sands prior to 2016 when she was made one of three government-appointed co-chairs of Alberta's oilsands advisory group (OSAG).

"Outrageous that the NDP ever chose to validate and raise the profile of someone like Tzeporah Berman," Kenney wrote.

That prompted Berman to fire back on Facebook.

"You keep simplifying what I am saying to foment fear and anger in Alberta that paralyzes us from progress," she wrote.

"This is not leadership, it's a disingenuous, simplistic, poisonous, ego-led grasp for power and I hope voters in 2019 see through it."

Berman, a former director of Greenpeace and adjunct professor at York University, is a vocal opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

Since he became UCP leader, Kenney has repeatedly used Berman's involvement with OSAG to call Premier Rachel Notley's commitment to Alberta's energy industry into question.

Berman left the position in June 2017, a year earlier than scheduled.

Berman said on Facebook Saturday that her appointment came after five chief executive officers of oil companies and five leaders of environmental organizations recommended she be part of the process. OSAG was tasked with advising the province on how to implement its 100-megatonne limit on emissions from the oilsands.

Berman said she was recommended because she had been mediating a conversation between industry and environmental groups to break Canada's "climate policy gridlock."

'Crass, simplistic narrative': Berman

"So let me reiterate Mr. Kenney, Premier Notley appointed me because leaders in the oil industry asked her to," she wrote.

"This crass, simplistic narrative and debate you are fomenting is a disservice to Albertans and our nation. It moves us backwards instead of forwards. It forces people to 'take sides' instead of find solutions … I refuse to back down or be silenced by your attacks on me."

Kenney responded with a Facebook post of his own, stating that regardless of what the oil executives thought, the final decision to appoint Berman rested with Notley.

"In doing so, the NDP lent credibility to Ms. Berman's extreme views and raised her notoriety even further," he wrote.

"And to this day, the premier has not even expressed regret nor apologized for Ms. Berman's appointment."

Berman has become a controversial figure in Alberta politics because of her opposition to the Alberta oilsands, which she once likened to Mordor, the bleak and scorched lands in the Lord of the Rings books.

The Alberta Teachers' Association recently came under fire for inviting Berman to speak at one of its conferences in Enoch, west of Edmonton, on Oct. 13.

'Bad political theatre': Kenney

Notley announced Thursday that she would also speak at the conference to "counter misinformation and ensure that the whole story is told."

Kenney scoffed when asked on Friday about Notley's upcoming public rebuttal, calling it "bad political theatre."

"It's the premier that created this problem of elevating Ms. Berman's profile and credibility. And she still hasn't ever admitted that she was wrong to do so," he said.

"Maybe she could take the opportunity of this speech to say that she never should have appointed Tzeporah Berman as one of the government's top oilsands advisors."

When Berman left OSAG in June 2017, the government said her work was done because the group's first two phases of consultation were complete. 

Berman co-chaired OSAG along with David Collyer, past CEO and president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Melody Lepine, director of government and industry relations with the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

Membership of the working group included people from industry, northern Alberta municipalities, First Nations, Fort McMurray Mé​tis Local 1935 and environmental groups.

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