Environment Minister Jim Prentice is not having a good day today in Copenhagen. It started with an embarrassing fake press release announcing Canada had bold, ambitious greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets.
It appeared that the press release had made it on to various websites but those websites, including one purporting to be the Wall Street Journal's European edition, were part of the hoax, too.
And then a second press release saying the first press release was a hoax was also a hoax. What a schmozzle.
Then there was a video that appeared on what appeared to be the UN conference's website from the Ugandan delegation reacting to the fake press release announcing Canada's bold new targets. In it, a Ugandan woman congratulates Canada for its new targets but criticizes the Canadian government for taking so much time to change its targets:
"It's high time Canada changed," said the woman, who was identified as Margaret Matembe. She accused Canada of refusing to negotiate at the conference, having held a "gun" to everyone's head, saying "you left us no choice but to see you as criminals."
That video is fake, too.
It's not clear who is behind all this but the suspicion is that it is the work of an American group called the Yes Men. They have pulled these sorts of stunts before, attacking the corporate world and globalization through their spoofs, which include making websites look authentic. The Yes Men, according to their spokespeople in the United States, are in Copenhagen and they are tweeting about the spoof.
"Yes, we have heard a bit about this hoax, we are investigating," Joseph Huff-Hannon, who works with the group, told The Globe in an email. "Word has it that more will be revealed tomorrow at 13:00 pm Copenhagen time. I hear that those responsible can't speak about it tonight though."
Then, later on Monday evening, the Yes Men told The Associated Press they wanted to expose what they said was Canada's failure to take tough action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"The idea was to confuse the Canadian government, which set up a war room to positively spin their position in the debate even though everyone here knows that their position is a cruel joke," said Yes Men member Mike Bonanno.
Meanwhile, to add to Mr. Prentice's bad day there is a report in the Toronto Star that U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu snubbed the Environment Minister and didn't want to have his picture taken with him at a photo op. This is important as the Harper government has made so much of the fact that it is twinning its climate-change plan with that of the Obama administration. Mr. Prentice's staff, however, did manage to snap a photo of the two men chatting.
And we're not finished: Dimtri Soudas, the Prime Minister's spokesman, who is in Copenhagen with Mr. Prentice (is the PMO worried about this file?), had suggested that the original fake press release was the work of Steven Guilbeault, the co-founder and deputy director of Équiterre. The group sent out their own press release (which we believe to be authentic) saying that Mr. Soudas "should stop throwing baseless accusations."
They want him to retract his accusations. "A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate," says the release. It says that Mr. Guilbeault was not behind the spoof.
Mr. Soudas, who was caught on CBC video having a heated conversation with Mr. Guilbeault, scoffed at Equiterre's request for an apology. "This is another PR stunt," he told The Globe.
What a day.
With a report from The Associated Press
(Photo: Danish police stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Copenhagen on Monday. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)