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Sierra Club accuses feds of misleading public

Yesterday, Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice released a list of quotes from environmental groups supporting his pending proposal to overhaul heavy vehicle emission regulations.

Followers of Canadian environmental politics might have been surprised to see an enthusiastic endorsement of the plan from the Sierra Club, an organization with a less than cordial relationship with the Harper government.

The Sierra Club of Canada's executive director, John Bennett, certainly was.

"We didn't know anything about it," he said. "I got a call from Sun Media last night asking if the quotes were from us. I looked at them and they're not ours, they're quotes from the Sierra Club United States, they're over a year old, they don't refer to any event in Canada and they certainly don't represent anything we actually said."

The ministry had not yet produced any details of its proposed regulations, and thus, the Sierra Club of Canada has yet to produce an opinion, said Bennett. Since the Ministry of the Environment hasn't formally consulted his organization about a policy since the current government came into office in 2006, they know no more than has been made available to the public.

"When they actually have regulations, we'll comment on them. But we certainly aren't going to say 'wow, that's great' that they've announced, again, that they're going to do something."

The quote in question was actually an endorsement of the Obama administration's 2009 announcement that it would set emissions standards similar to those that have been in place in California since 2001.

"Now, if Canada actually had regulations like what's coming in in the United States that would be great, and we'd say that," said Bennett, "But we don't actually have anything like that. We just have announcements."

Bennett also said that due to differences in Canada and the United States' car fleets, direct comparison between the Obama administration's goals and anything Canada might propose probably wouldn't be very meaningful. Canadians tends to purchase smaller cars, so our fleet's total fuel efficiency is three or four miles per gallon [60-80 liters per 100 km] better already.

But those issues aside, Bennett said that he believes the American quote was deliberately misleading and not an attempt to draw a comparison.

"I've never heard anything out of their mouths but ridicule or disdain for anything I've said. So for them to suddenly turn around and say that we're validating their position is quite interesting," he said.

Minister Prentice's office had not replied to a request for comment at press time.

Ryan Elias is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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