Cameron ready for Alberta tour
EDMONTON -- Environmental groups are hoping their message about Alberta's highly talked-about oilsands industry will be heard by a famous Hollywood movie director.
James Cameron, who's directed blockbuster flicks like Avatar and Titanic, will be visiting Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan and Edmonton between Monday and Thursday this week.
The movie director, who has openly criticized the controversial industry, has meetings slated with oil company executives and will be getting tours of oilsands operations. He will also speak with leaders in aboriginal communities in northeastern Alberta.
A Wednesday meeting with Premier Ed Stelmach, however, is still listed tentative, says Jerry Bellikka, a spokesman with the premier's office.
"A lot of people are aware of the issues surrounding greenhouse gases and the tailings ponds, but there are lots of other problems that people are less aware about with the oilsands," said Helene Walsh, a boreal conservation director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Northern Alberta chapter.
Groups like CPAWS are hoping to meet with the movie director to share their opinions about the oilsands.
Walsh says CPAWS has already sent Cameron an "information document" with a list of environmental concerns when it comes to the oilsands.
"We hope he will bring up these issues when he meets with (Stelmach)," said Walsh.
The document urges Stelmach's government to "stop building new projects until there's a better understand of how to solve existing problems surrounding the oilsands."
CPAWS also urges the government to preserve 50% of the region to protect caribou habitat.
Mike Hudema, a Greenpeace campaigner based in Edmonton, says Cameron's visit will create more international attention to the problems surrounding the oilsands.
"He will finally see what's wrong with the oilsands," said Hudema.
Bellikka says Stelmach will be flying in plane from Ottawa to meet with Cameron on Wednesday, but that meeting is still being scheduled since the premier "has other meetings throughout the day."
Stelmach will be in Ottawa for an energy conference Monday followed by a meeting with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Gatineau.
The trip on the government plane will cost taxpayers $10,000.
Bellikka says the trip is important since Stelmach is meeting an "influential" person who has criticized Alberta's oilands industry.
"As a native-born Canadian, I'm concerned about the criticism levelled at Alberta's oilsands operations and eager to learn whether they are true or not, and if true, how they are being addressed by industry and government," said Cameron in a letter addressed to Stelmach.