Rod Mickleburgh, The Globe and Mail, March 13, 2007
VANCOUVER — Guess what? If you Google the federal government’s hastily
assembled new green fund, Canada EcoTrust, you don’t get Canada EcoTrust at
all. Or at least, not right away.
"The first thing you get is us," a vexed Ian Gill said yesterday.
Mr. Gill is president of Ecotrust Canada, a non-profit, environmental organization,
well known on the West Coast, that has been around since Prime Minister
Stephen Harper was a rookie MP for the Reform Party.
And, to put it mildly, the nearly 13-year-old organization is not amused that the
Tories seem to have lifted the Ecotrust Canada brand name for the government’s
own $1.5-billion environment package. So, when Mr. Harper comes calling here
today to shower the province with an expected $200-million in EcoTrust cash, Mr.
Gill will be waiting for him.
"The government has not been taking this seriously, and I think they should. We
want our name back," Mr. Gill said.
He said the matter goes to the heart of what some critics have charged is a
rushed, back-of-the-envelope approach to combatting climate change by Mr.
Harper’s Conservative government.
"They didn’t even take the time to do due diligence on the name," charged Mr.
Gill, who founded Ecotrust Canada in 1994. "That’s how quickly this whole thing
has been cooked up."
Ecotrust Canada is far more than a group of eco-activists churning out press
releases from somebody’s basement.
The organization has a full-time staff of 25, an annual budget of $3-million and an
ambitious community loan fund. It has been in the forefront of practical efforts to
preserve coastal rainforests and develop rural community projects to cut
"What the government says they want to see happen, we actually do," Mr. Gill
Mr. Harper announced the new Canada EcoTrust fund Feb. 12 in Quebec. The
fund contains $1.5-billion of federal money to help the provinces combat global
warming. The money is allocated to each province on the basis of population.
Mr. Gill said many of his organization’s donors were immediately confused.
"When I turned on my BlackBerry that morning, there were all these e-mails. It
filled up like an 800-pound gorilla, and our phones were ringing off the hook."
Perplexed donors wondered if Ecotrust Canada had suddenly become part of the
Harper government’s climate-change strategy, while "somebody thought we’d
come into $1.5-billion," Mr. Gill said.
The organization quickly wrote to Mr. Harper, pointing out the confusion and what
appeared to be a violation of its exclusive right to the Ecotrust name.
"The government’s assumption of the name ‘Canada EcoTrust’ is a serious threat
to our brand," the letter said.
"Ours is a consciously non-partisan organization and to have our name adopted
by any government, no matter how well-intended your program, diminishes our
The organization, saying it did not wish to pick a fight with the government, asked
Mr. Harper for a meeting to try to resolve the issue.
Apart from a few phone calls from "low-level functionaries," however, there has
been no response, Mr. Gill said.
Mr. Gill said it is in the government’s interest to make peace, since Ecotrust
Canada has demonstrated the capacity to help "dramatically reduce greenhouse
gases. Why would they want to swat us aside?"
Mike Van Soelen, communications director for federal Environment Minister John
Baird, said the government is "taking a look" at the complaint from Ecotrust
"We are certainly taking their concern serious," he said.
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