Exposure of Harper government spying should frighten "scandal-plagued" Tory pols: Leadnow

Leadnow communications director expresses "deep concern" at emails revealing that government spied on a workshop in a church basement last January in Kelowna.

Photograph: Bigstock.com

Julia Pope, director of strategic communications at Leadnow, an independent advocacy organization that "brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy" reacted with anger over news reported by the Vancouver Observer this week that the National Energy Board worked with government spies to monitor a workshop organized by Leadnow and Dogwood Initiative,  a Victoria-based environmental advocacy group, in a church basement in Kelowna last January. 

"The exposure of this abuse of power should frighten a scandal-plagued government seeking re-election," Pope said.

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in BC and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act by reporter Matthew Millar show.  Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but it is apparently deploying public safety resources as a de-facto 'insurance policy' to ensure that federal strategies on proposed oil pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

“We're deeply concerned that our government has been using taxpayers’ money to spy on citizen groups promoting democracy and volunteers doing arts and crafts in church basements instead of focusing real issues like the corruption scandal in the Prime Ministers Office and the Senate, or growing economic inequality that is making life harder for Canadians,” Pope said.

Before the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline last year, the NEB coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands.The groups it monitored included independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government's policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights---Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and others, as well as LeadNow.

Leadnow is a growing community of 350,000 Canadians working together across generations to advance climate justice, equality and democratic reform by using online organizing tools and crowd-sourced, reactive campaigns to hold government accountable to build a better future for all Canadians.

At the workshop last January, three Leadnow team-members taught retired senior citizens how to use story-telling techniques to get the public more interested in political discourse. 

Pope said, "This government is using out-of-control spy agencies to monitor citizens groups who don’t want big oil companies ramming dangerous energy projects through our communities.

"If the oil and gas industry are having trouble convincing the public that these projects are safe, that should be their problem. Our government shouldn’t be spying on concerned citizens and feeding that information to their friends in private industry."

"The privacy, democratic rights and long-term interests of the Canadian public should come before the narrow interests of a few energy companies. This is obvious to Canadians from across party lines and from all walks of life, but apparently not to our current federal government.

"The fact that we even need to say that the government shouldn’t wasting money monitoring the actions of those using paintbrushes in church basements says a lot about the state of our democracy right now."

 Photograph of Dogwood Initiative campaigner Celine Trojand speaking at Kelowna Leadnow meeting last January courtesy of Julia Pope


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