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HomeBusinessNDP government withholds environment minister’s travel budget for UN climate change conference in Dubai

NDP government withholds environment minister’s travel budget for UN climate change conference in Dubai

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Bob Mackin 

The B.C. NDP Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy posted photographs on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing his meetings this week with officials from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, governments of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador and California, and students from B.C.’s two biggest universities.

(George Heyman/X)

After he travelled almost 12,000 kilometres from Vancouver to Dubai. 

But George Heyman’s representatives refused to reveal the approved budget for his trip to the United Nations COP 28 climate change convention in the oil and gas-rich United Arab Emirates. 

“Minister Heyman is accompanied by chief of staff Charlie Brenchley and assistant deputy minister Jeremy Hewitt,” said David Karn, spokesperson for the ministry. “The trip is funded out of the ministry budget. Final costs will be released after all expenses are tabulated.”

Government policy requires a budget form be completed and approved before leaving B.C. 

Jason Woywada, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said this information should not be paywalled because of predictable demand from the public, media and opposition politicians. 

“Those requests occur on such a regular basis, the category of records that this represents should be proactively released,” Woywada said. “Because, if it isn’t being proactively released, what they’re doing is they’re creating a tax on transparency. They’re trying to collect as many $10 application fees as they can.”

Woywada said it is equally important for Heyman and staff to attend COP 28 and be transparent about spending. 

“That they be able to defend to other groups that are upset about the cost, that this was important for them to be in Dubai in order to represent the interests of British Columbians,” Woywada said. 

Last year, when Egypt hosted the conference, Heyman’s pre-trip authorization form, released after a freedom of information request, estimated his trip would cost taxpayers $15,239.71: $9,039.71 for lodging, $4,500 for transportation and $1,700 for meals. 

Aides Danielle Monroe  ($17,666.83) and Kelly Sather ($16,039.71) and Hewitt ($14,570) filed forms.

Purchasing card statements for Nov. 3, 2022 and Dec. 3, 2022 showed that Heyman, Monroe and Sather charged taxpayers a total $18,259.92 for transportation costs alone.

A 2018 report by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions estimated aviation emissions account for roughly 3.5 percent of total human-caused warming of the planet.

(George Heyman/X)

United Nations figures show that 97,372 people from 3,838 states and organizations registered to participate in Dubai for the Nov. 30-Dec. 12 convention. That is roughly the same as the population of Kamloops.

A prominent host country leader, however, expressed skepticism about visitors campaigning to replace oil and gas. U.A.E. state oil company CEO and conference president Sultan Al Jaber lashed out at critics during a pre-conference event, according to a report in the U.K.’s Guardian.   

“Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” Al Jaber said during his appearance at She Changes Climate.

Federally, the Government of Canada’s central list shows 187 in-person officials and guests, which is more than the U.S. (159) and less than China (219).  

Liberal environment minster Steven Guilbeault led the delegation and was accompanied by a deputy minister, assistant deputy minister, chief negotiator, policy advisor and visits coordinator, among others. 

The list shows 48 people directly affiliated with Environment and Climate Change Canada, 16 embassy and consular staff and nine from Global Affairs Canada. Other departments represented include Natural Resources Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Invest in Canada and Transport Canada (six each) and Export Development Canada, Agriculture and Agrifood, Health Canada, Indigenous Services and International Development (four each). 

The Canadian delegation included B.C. Members of Parliament Taylor Bacharach (NDP, Skeena-Bulkley Valley) and Elizabeth May (Green, Saanich-Gulf Islands). The Green Party co-leader’s husband John Kidder accompanied May, who is recovering from a June stroke. 

She said that Environment Canada is covering her economy airfare, but Kidder’s expenses are “covered through personal resources.”

Gerard Deltell, a Conservative MP from Quebec, was on the list of 3,074 virtual participants from 767 states and organizations. 

Even though he ceased being Vancouver mayor five years ago, Gregor Robertson registered to attend as the “global ambassador” for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

The organization’s co-chair is billionaire former New York mayor and business media tycoon Michael Bloomberg. 

At least one sitting B.C. mayor is in Dubai: City of New Westminster’s Patrick Johnstone.

The 2022-elected Johnstone from the NDP-aligned Community First New West party posted photographs from Dubai on his Instagram feed, including from an event hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the umbrella for Bloomberg’s foundation and consultancy.

New Westminster climate action manager Leya Behra is also registered. Neither Johnstone nor city manager Lisa Spitale replied. 

University of B.C. sent nine and Simon Fraser University seven people. UBC’s associate dean of forestry Guangyu Wang and research coordinator Chunyu Pan are, however, listed as affiliates of China’s Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University.

Stand.earth, the Vancouver, Bellingham and San Francisco environmental charity, registered nine personnel. International program director Tzeporah Berman’s name is found as a delegate for Vanuatu with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. 

The list of Canadians also includes a variety of executives, managers and activists representing entities across the spectrum, including AtkinsRealis (formerly known as SNC-Lavalin), Prince Rupert Port Authority, B.C. General Employees Union, Haisla Nation Council and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. 

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