Former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice issues a veiled warning to Stephen Harper

Sometimes, you stumble across an intriguing article where you least expect to find it.

This weekend as I was perusing a Vancouver Sun special section on energy, I spotted the byline of Jim Prentice. He's the senior executive vice-president and vice-chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Prentice also happens to be the former Conservative environment minister who announced his resignation from the Stephen Harper government in 2010 because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Coincidentally (or not), this came shortly after he visited Haida Gwaii with environmentalist David Suzuki.

Prentice was a Progressive Conservative before his party was taken over by the more right-wing Canadian Alliance. Its roots were in the old Reform Party of Canada.

Harper, a former policy director of the Reformers, likely went a bit berserk at the sight of his environment minister hobnobbing on The Nature of Things with Suzuki.

Now in his role with the bank, Prentice writes that the objective of developing and exporting Canada's hydrocarbon deposits is a "defining moment” for the country. He used the same language in a speech last month to the Business Council of B.C.

In the article, Prentice never mentions the proposed Enbridge or Kinder Morgan pipelines by name. However, he acknowledges that “the constitutional and legal issues surrounding west coast energy corridors, terminals and shipping are extraordinarily complex”.

One section of Prentice's piece is worth repeating verbatim:

To begin, however, the constitutional obligation to consult with first nations is not a corporate obligation. It is the federal government's responsibility.

Second, the obligation to define an ocean management regime for terminals and shipping on the west coast is not a corporate responsibility. It is the federal government's responsibility.

Finally, these issues cannot be resolved by regulatory fiat—they require negotiation. The real risk is not regulatory rejection but regulatory approval, undermined by subsequent legal challenges and the absence of 'social licence' to operate.

There are billions of dollars at stake for Corporate Canada in the efforts to export raw bitumen through Kitimat and the Port of Vancouver and ship this product via supertankers to Asia.

In the article, Prentice is, in fact, appealing to the Harper government to modify its approach of not seriously negotiating with First Nations.

Prentice also questions the wisdom of ramming the approval of pipelines through the regulatory process by shortening timelines. He appears to believe that this creates a greater risk of pipeline projects being thwarted by legal challenges.

Keep in mind that CIBC has a huge vested interest. First Nations youths have already warned CIBC not to finance Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project.

"CIBC should catch up with Royal Bank and TD Bank, which have already committed to recognize our right to consent," Jasmine Thomas, a 24-year-old member of the Yinka Dene Alliance, said in a news release last year. In other words, CIBC is in the sights of First Nations activists to a greater degree than other banks.

If Prentice's views on the Harper government's duty to negotiate are widely shared within the head offices of other Canadian banks and energy companies—not to mention the Conservative caucus—then the prime minister might not be as secure in his job as most people believe he is.

Prentice is well-regarded within Conservative and corporate circles. He's received lavish press over the years from the country's biggest newspapers. I wouldn't be surprised if Prentice eventually plays a role if there's a palace revolt within Conservative ranks—primarily because Harper's bellicose take-no-prisoners approach may not be achieving all of Bay Street's objectives in the tar sands.


Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (25) Add New Comment
Hans Goldberg
By pushing is extreme right wing agenda Harper is alienating not only most middle of the road Canadians, but the very people he needs to stay in power.
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Nadine Lumley
All hail the Petro Nation ♪♫
Well, Ethical Oil is like free-range Molasses ♪♫

Ethical Oil: the Puppet Rap
2:50 min. long
http://youtu.be/lYUd7WOdjyU
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Farid
I am not sure if the West and the First Nations really play any part in Harper's decision making process. He could be compared to a bulldozer running over any opposition.
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C. Alexander Brown
From the vantage point of Ottawa, and some knowlege of what's going on inside the government, I am totally surprisedat how much dissatisfaction there is inside the federal Consertative Party, from grassroots right up to the highest levels. Yet no group nor indeed even individuals have had the courage to act....!! One person in the know told there is a lot of fear, and that is the reason. In Canada? Unbelievable. We need an Edward R. Morrow moment. It is overdue. Great harm, difficult to reverse and in cases impossible, is being done to our country by an Americanized cuckoo who believes that what Diefenbaker created is no more, is passe, is dead. He is counting on collective cowardice in the (Progressive) Conservative Party to see him through to achieving his goal.
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Foxtrot
Not only is Harper alienating banks but also the base. Seniors no longer trust the man . . . and they vote. The baying of the base is building.
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Catherine Soplet
Budget Bill #C38 strays from the emerging path publicly envisioned by Rotman School of Management, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and other business stakeholders in recent conferences: http://tinyurl.com/86wqf6y My question to Senators: how will megaprojects be insured, moving forward, where environmental regulations and consequences are not in place ?
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Teedeer
I read C. Alexander Brown's comments several times before deciding to comment. While I generally like the right-wing approach to politics, as a resident of B.C. the memory if Gordon Campbell ruling both our province and his cabinet with an iron fist is fresh in my mind. I see tough times ahead and the net income to Western Canada from a pipeline to Kitimat sure would go a long way to easing our problems but jamming it down anyones throat could backfire in the worst way at a time when we really need good things to happen. I voted Conservative but we're way overdue for those we elect locally to speak up on the broader issue of the good of all Canadians. If they don't I visualize a pink-tinged P.M. Mulcair when we need him least.
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Scott_G
Before people comment about Pipe lines ect.
they should disclose if they use Oil products like, Plastic, fuel etc.
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Then, I would ask, should we shut off the gas supply to the first nations, and let them chop all their own wood, No more Oil, no more gas for the cars.
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Then, would they be willing to use horses to plow feilds etc.
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Our food supply would be cut in half and to heat our homes, we would have to cut down all the forests.
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There is a whole lot of hot air out there. But not much thinking.
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Xtina
@Scott G that extreme reasoning you use, that if consumers aren't for radical petroleum then let's just all go back to pre-industrial civilization, is so simplistic. Let's break out the new energy sources, let's pressure governments to put all our efforts into developing less toxic more potent sources of fuel--like our very existence depended on it.
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Sheeple
Typical Neo-Con bots for profit mostly foreign Corporations and Sovereign Oil Corporations like those from Communist China.

We in Canada do little if ANY Value Added processing of our Natural Resources like...

Making finished wood products or more importantly due to the economic value OIL REFINING INTO END USER FUEL!!!

Instead we are known as Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water and now as idiots who give away our OIL (Don't use the PR word "Energy" from the OIL Corporations) to Foreign Corporations.

Alberta Oil + Royalty Giveaway...

The Neo-Cons are so stupid that they don't even charge a real Royalty in Alberta for the OIL!

Not like Norway (who's State Owned Oil Corporation recently bought Alberta Oil Mining Rights to make money for Norwegians NOT Canadians!)

Nor like right here in Canada within Newfoundland and Labrador where Danny Williams Demanded the OIL Corporations PAY a REAL Royalty for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Instead we in Canada giveaway our OIL for nothing and don't even refine enough to supply our own needs let alone Export.

Did you know that Ottawa sends BILLIONS back to Oil Corporations as rebates every year so they can make even more profit.

And we Canada get virtually net zero from Royalties as most of it is funneled back to Foreign Oil Corporations via Rebates every year from the Federal Government.

Time for the Norway and Newfoundland Model in Alberta.
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John Penn
You really need to give your head a shake when even your own senior party members are going on record to distance themselves....current conservatives are behaving more like the Tea party nutcases rather than a true conservative...these extreme policies risk in alienating provinces such as Quebec to bring up the separation issue again and i'm sure BC and Alberta will be thinking on the same line....Conservatives have a mandate to serve ALL canadians and not just the far right nutcases
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miguel
Harper hired election campaign advisers from the NRA and the GOP, then spent $28 million promoting the War of 1812.

This guy does smoke and mirrors very well.
Miguel
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Jeremy Riemer
Your questions clearly tell me that you are poorly informed
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S Halayka
Hmm. That's interesting.
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Obi-jonKenobi
Watching the storm clouds of opposition to pipelines from the tar sands through British Columbia makes me worry that will put even more pressure in the U.S. to Ok the Keystone XL pipeline across Oklahoma and Texas to the Gulf. The Republicans and some Democrats have bought into this idea for some strange reason and a conservative victory in the fall will pave the way for this boondoggle. They're already using eminent domaine to claim right-of-way for the pipeline.

This is the nastiest and most abrasive oil on the planet that will be piped across fragile ecosystems in pipe made in China to the Gulf refineries in tax-free havens to then be shipped to the international market. Americans will get the shaft, large corporations (Canadian?) will get the gold. They get to light their cigars with $100 bills, we've already had to struggle with cleaning up this uniquely dense oil in a massive spill along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and there will be more where that came from.

If opposition in British Columbia succeeds and the Republicans win in the fall, here comes the tar sands oil across our country.
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Uncle
Lets see if I have this right. While in power PM CONS Harper will give the OK to build the pipelines west and south. The Oil Barons will quickly start the building process. PM CONS Harper gets turfed unless he finds other new and improved jerry rigging American ways to illegally win an election. When turfed and all this pipeline building,or lack of, come to a halt,all these Oil Barons sue the federal government(Taxpayers) for breach of Contract) and collect untold wealth from the taxpayers bottomless pit.
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Political Will
@Scott_G

Another moronic right-wing-nut spouting off radical statements that have no basis in reality. "You're opposed to the pipelines therefore you should walk barefoot and eat only berries you collect in your home-spun woollen bag".

NO that's not the logical extension-train of thought of those that oppose the rampant consumption of petroleum. We oppose the obscene profiteering by multi-national corporations that are hell-bent on sucking every last drop of oil out of the ground as fast as they can with no heed to the future because we need that energy here for a long time to come.

At last look Canada is a cold country with vast distances. We are going to need that oil and that gas for the future - our children our great-great-grandchildren are going to look at our greed with bewilderment and disdain.

Using fossil fuels to build sustainability is a smart use. Shipping it to China is short-sighted.
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Martin in Toronto
Whew ... given the choice of Prentice or Harper at the helm of our country, I'd take Prentice in a heartbeat. He thinks, respects others, is careful, does not smack of self-interest and greed, and is open to being wrong. Prentice ... in a heartbeat!
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kim hunter
805-Oil-Spill-Enbridge is not good for BC. Perhaps it's good for China owned tarsands and their puppet Harper, but by all accounts, this is the most threatening pillow-talk BC has yet to endure. From our economy, to our civil rights to our environment. BC has spoken and they are not buying what 805-Oil-Spill-Enbridge is peddling. There is much too much at stake for 100+ bitumen jobs. I have been following these 'deals' since they started eroding our rights as Canadian citizens. Posting hearing dates, data, links and petitions to my blog: http://kim-hunter.blogspot.ca
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blueheron
Jim Prentice is thought of by many grassroots conservatives as 'conservative in name only'. He's probably in the right place at CIBC, which is FAR more than a bank. It has a political agenda.
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