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Harper govt meeting in secret with UK to sell oil sands: docs

As the world's nations gather in Durban, South Africa, this week and next to discuss solutions to our planet's looming climate crisis, new documents suggest Canada's leadership has a quite different set of priorities.

Top Canadian officials, including former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, have been convening quietly with the highest levels of the British leadership, hoping to derail any European climate policy penalizing Alberta's high-carbon oil sands.

That strategy has been reported on in-depth by The Tyee. But new documents obtained by green groups The Co-operative and Friends of the Earth Europe give an unprecedented, and intimate, glimpse into the diplomatic alliance between Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government and its British counterpart.

European Union member countries are set to vote this week on a climate policy, the Fuel Quality Directive, that legally acknowledges Alberta's oil sands are worse for the climate than many other energy sources.

On September 22 this year, the documents reveal, Prime Minister Harper met directly with British PM David Cameron, discussing "Canada's difficulties over the oil sands directive."

The very next day, former B.C. premier Campbell, now Canada's high commissioner to the UK, sat down with British minister of state Lord David Howell.

"Lord Howell highlighted UK efforts on the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD)," reads an internal British government report. "Campbell expressed appreciation."

Over the next month, key members of Harper's cabinet discussed oil sands strategy with the British leadership. They included the ministers for international trade (Ed Fast), natural resources (Joe Oliver), immigration (Jason Kenney) and foreign affairs (John Baird).

"We’ve long suspected the close relationship between the British and Canadian governments and big oil, now we have the documents to prove it," reads a Greenpeace blog posting.

These recent revelations could hurt Canada's reputation as it enters climate talks in Durban, a reputation already damaged by news reports Monday that the Harper government will likely officially withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol next month.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate issue for The Tyee.

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