Alberta riled by Leonardo DiCaprio’s position on oil sands – by Ingrid Peritz (Globe and Mail – August 24, 2014)


The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is ruffling feathers in Alberta after becoming the latest celebrity to visit the province and shine a critical spotlight on Canada’s oil sands.

Both the Alberta government and the oil industry came to the defence of the oil sands after Mr. DiCaprio travelled Friday to Fort McMurray, the heart of the oil-sands industry, as well as to the small community Fort Chipewyan, which has drawn world attention to health and environmental concerns.

The purpose of the trip was to reportedly research a documentary, but The Wolf of Wall Street actor has already staked a high-profile position as an environmentalist and critic of big oil. A video released last week, narrated by Mr. DiCaprio, warns about climate change and depicts the fossil-fuel industry as a robotic monster stomping over the Earth.

“They drill, they extract, making trillions of dollars,” Mr. DiCaprio says about the industry, in the video titled ‘Carbon’. “We must fight to keep this carbon in the ground.”

Both Alberta and its oil industry responded with criticism Sunday to the actor’s visit, which follows on the heels of other celebrity attacks on oil-sand development by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, musician Neil Young and film director James Cameron.

“Like Canadians, we [the industry] are growing tired of the fad of celebrity environmentalists coming into the region for a few hours or a few days, and offering their ideas and solutions to developing this resource,” Lee Funke, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said on Sunday.

Canadians are looking for an industry commitment to produce the resource in a “responsible way,” he said, “and that’s just what we’re doing.”

Alberta Energy Minister Diana McQueen defended oil-sands development as “transparent and responsible” and said it was important to have “fact-based conversations” about energy.

“We respect people’s right to their opinions,” she said through a spokesman in an e-mail on Sunday. “At the same time, we believe reasonable people recognize the world needs all forms of energy, including fossil fuels, developed responsibly to meet its needs.” She added: “Aside from the economic opportunities the oil sands create for Albertans and Canadians, the taxes and royalties generated from the oil-sands development provide funding for the infrastructure and programs that contribute to Canada’s high standard of living.”

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