'Interference' in the NWT economy? Or a bad April Fool?

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Before even arriving in Yellowknife, Vivian Krause has been called 'divisive' by her opponents and 'polarizing' by the group that invited her.

Krause is due to address the NWT Chamber of Commerce next week. Her research specializes in the scrutiny of Canadian environmental groups – particularly what she alleges is a pattern of US-based foundations funding campaigns that seek to slow or shut down Canadian industry.

Mining and other industry groups champion her work online, claiming she is only asking the same "fair questions" (her Twitter handle) of environmental groups that others ask of corporate giants.

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The executive director of the NWT's chamber of mines, for example, tweeted "You go girl!" during an exchange between Krause and the leader of British Columbia's Green Party in mid-March.

By contrast, to environmental organizations in the Northwest Territories, Krause is a climate-change denier and "known cheerleader of big oil ... at a time when our world is heating up three times faster than the rest of the planet" – the words of Lois Little, who represents environmental activist group the Council of Canadians in the NWT.

Little is among a range of northern environmentalists who cannot understand why the NWT Chamber of Commerce decided to invite Krause to address its annual President's Dinner on April 11, a public event at Yellowknife's Explorer Hotel.

"Krause is funded by big oil," wrote former Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley. (Krause has previously stated a majority of her income is derived from paid speaking fees at industry events.)

"The reason she is hired to speak and 'research' this subject is that big oil is waking up to the fact that some jurisdictions ... are acting on the science and the recognized need to keep fossil fuels in the ground," continued Bromley. "This is scaring them."

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"Is this an April Fool's joke?" Asked Little, when contacted by Cabin Radio on Monday, April 1. "Why would the chamber bring such a divisive person to a territory where groups and individuals work so hard to collaborate with others, even those they don't always agree with?"

'Third parties interfering'

The NWT Chamber of Commerce acknowledges Krause's work elicits starkly different reactions according to who you ask.

Renée Comeau, the chamber's executive director, told Cabin Radio: "She is a polarizing speaker. We’re hoping to have an open conversation as to some of the issues the industrial economy right now.

"We are not denying climate change, nor has she," said Comeau. "We just want to talk about the other side of the issue and what we can do to bring back ourselves to being the stewards of our land.

"She is here for more of a general discussion in regards to what’s happening regarding the funding of third parties interfering in our industrial economy in the NWT."

Vivian Krause appears at a parliamentary hearing in 2010, where she suggested US interests were 'de-marketing' the Alberta oil sands.

Asked what she meant by interference in the territory's economy, Comeau appeared to suggest external influences were governing the creation of the new Thaidene Nëné national and territorial park.

"There is a significant amount of funding that has gone towards the new national park. The stakeholder meetings were held in Vancouver and no minutes were provided," Comeau alleged.

The territorial government's Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that while one meeting led by Parks Canada had taken place in Vancouver, with others in Ottawa and Calgary, there had also been a number of meetings in the Northwest Territories.

"Parks Canada also held stakeholder meetings in Yellowknife twice (2015, 2016) and Hay River once (2016)," said a department spokesperson by email, providing a link to a report on the consultation process.

Other meetings were said to have taken place in communities nearer to the park's proposed location to the northeast of Łutselkʼe.

Comeau also gave the example of a federally declared five-year moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas development, stating: "Neither the GNWT nor the Aboriginal nations in the Beaufort Delta were notified" before the moratorium was announced.

"As a whole, when it comes to the NWT, we are not being given a proper say as to what is happening to our economy and our land," said Comeau. "To quote the term Premier McLeod recently used, it has now come down to eco-colonialism."

While NWT Premier Bob McLeod has more than once decried the moratorium as part of a 'colonial' attack on the territory's ability to harness its resources, McLeod's government has also introduced legislation which creates the Thaidene Nëné park.

In inviting Krause to speak, Comeau said the chamber was ensuring "both sides are being heard."

"There are several examples of industry being the leaders, they are the ones asking for the changes as well," she said.

"What we’re looking for is being able to have industry have a stronger voice and not constantly be viewed as the bad guy.

"The diamond mines have done a lot when it comes to renewable resources. It’s showing that industry is wanting to be that partner in reducing their carbon footprint."

Northern groups 'short of funding'

France Benoit, writing on behalf of northern social justice group Alternatives North, penned a letter to Comeau on April 1 which stated: "I am flabbergasted that, in 2019, the NWT Chamber of Commerce would choose to align themselves with a known climate-change skeptic whose purpose, it seems, is to raise the issue of US charities investing in Canada largely on climate change issues. Let me remind you that climate change knows no borders.

"I have to ask," wrote Benoit, "what has the NWT Chamber of Commerce to gain by choosing not to side with science? What was the reasoning behind your decision? I truly want to know.

"As per your website, your mandate is to promote and create economic opportunities. To continue to deny the impacts of climate change does not create long-term economic stability and opportunities for the NWT."

In a written response to Benoit, Comeau said: "The NWT Chamber is aware that our choice of guest speaker in Vivian Krause would raise some eyebrows.

"The argument that she is attempting to make is that there are funded third parties that are interfering in our industrial economy with the sole purpose to land-lock our resources to the benefit of other foreign economies."

In 2012, Krause told a federal natural resources committee US foundations were "funding science as a marketing tactic to sway market share, to manipulate markets, and in some cases to protect trade interests."

More recently, she stated she does not believe US industry is seeking to directly benefit from the funding of Canadian environmental campaigning.

"As I have said over and over, I have found no evidence of direct commercial dollars behind anti-pipeline activism," she tweeted on March 29.

Members of Alternatives North, however, said they were not satisfied with the chamber's explanation for the relevance of Krause's arguments to the NWT.

"That idea is particularly ridiculous here in the North," wrote one, "where environmental non-government organizations are chronically short of funding."

Tickets remain available for the dinner. Admission is $75 for chamber members or $90 for non-members.