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Gone Bananas

Ethical Oil calls for a boycott of Chiquita

Dec 21, 2011

by Michael Ganley

So, the Ethical Oil group circulated a media release this morning announcing a noontime demonstration at the Safeway on 104 Ave in Edmonton to inform people about their boycott of Chiquita bananas. It encouraged people to join their boycott group on Facebook, included a link to their radio ad and announced a new website as part of the campaign (I hesitate to add the link, fearing that traffic to the site will only fuel their already-overblown sense of importance).

Since I needed a few things for the chili I’m making for the company potluck on Friday anyways, I headed over. Two young people in sombreros and colourful ponchos (I kid you not) stood at the front door, handing out a flyer that said Chiquita had “declared war” on Albertan families and calling on Safeway to join the boycott.

The TV news cameras had dutifully arrived and brief interviews were duly conducted. The only customer I saw engaging with the two Ethical Oilers for any length of time was questioning their own ethics for protesting on Safeway property without first asking permission of the company. Ah ethics, such a minefield.

There were no Chiquita bananas inside. Only Del Monte (what’s their fuel policy?) The assistant manager said he hadn’t seen any Chiquita in a while.

So, Mexican stereotype? Check. Overblown rhetoric? Check. Dubious assertions? Check.

If we really want to protect the oil sands from global condemnation, we should engage on a reasonable, fact-based level. Chiquita has not “declared war” on anything. It “committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tarsands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels.”

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Premier Alison Redford showed her usual considered, rational approach, saying it’s a case of “a corporation who is concerned about environmental outcomes talking about a lower-emission fuel standard, saying that that’s a concern to them.”

For that, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith accused her of spinning for Chiquita.

Posturing, sloganeering and shouting over one another is counterproductive. We should acknowledge the shortcomings with respect to the oil sands rather than patting ourselves on the back for being better than Iran. Our own federal environment department has said we have no credible scientific evidence backing up our assertions that oil sands development is environmentally responsible. Serious people the world over are taking a hard look at the oil sands. Never mind Chiquita. What will the European Union do with its Fuel Quality Directive? They want to see evidence, and will not be swayed by Ethical Oil’s propaganda. (To better understand this and other oil sands issues, visit Andrew Leach’s blog. It’s difficult, I know, but that’s sort of the point).

Getting such evidence has to be a priority. The dithering of both the provincial and federal governments over setting up legitimate regulatory oversight of the oil sands must end, for all of our sakes.

I don’t know if today’s protest will make tonight’s news. I hope not. I’ll tune in to see while I’m cooking the chili.

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