OTTAWA - Joe Oliver's public-relations tour through Europe is ending as it began — with the natural resource minister on the defensive not just about Canada's oilsands but also about his own reaction to criticism.
Oliver is flying back today from the U.K., after a whirlwind trip through Israel, Brussels, Paris and London to promote Canada's approach to oil and gas production.
But even as he pleads with Europe to accept bitumen from the oilsands, he also lashes out at critics for exaggerating their claims about greenhouse gas emissions and being unrealistic about how badly the world needs Canadian oil.
In his quest to assure market access for Canadian oil, Oliver is lobbying against the European Parliament's tentative plans to impose a tax on bitumen because of its emissions.
But he says his comments about a World Trade Organization challenge of the European measures are not a threat; instead they are just a recognition of the last resort Canada would be forced to take if Europe doesn't back down.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will follow up next week with a trip to New York to argue the benefits of building the Keystone XL pipeline.