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Petrostate Politics

Oil corrodes not only pipelines, but democracy itself. Canada has long been considered one of the fairest, most compassionate countries in the world. But the Canadian government's recent intense focus on tar sands expansion has aligned it closely with the global oil industry, seeing it sabotage international efforts to prevent climate change and undermine its own democracy.

The Canadian government has muzzled its scientists, eliminated environmnental laws at the behest of the oil industry, restricted public participation in tar sands approvals, and attacked charities who advocate for alternatives. These are classic signs of a petro-state.

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Canada's tar sands industry has unprecedented influence over government
Key Issues:
- Environmental laws, climate science, and research have been gutted
- Canada actively blocks global efforts on climate change
Current Status:
Canada is increasingly disrespected by and out of step with its global allies

Canada has seen a consistent erosion of democracy since tar sands development escalated 10 years ago. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament. It’s political base is anchored in Alberta, whose provincial legislature is also dominated by like-minded Conservatives, and the influence of the tar sands industry reaches deep into the federal cabinet.

Meanwhile, anyone who questions the logic of a tar sands-based economy has been branded an unpatriotic extremist, while tar sands corporations and interest groups operate with little or no actual oversight. At the behest of the oil industry, the federal government has gutted Canada's most important environmental legislation to fast-track tar sands development, and crippled effective public oversight of an industry that poses tremendous social, economic and environmental risks for Canadians and the rest of the world.

The government has slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change and other important environmental issues, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work, and made it more difficult – and in some cases, impossible – for Canadians to participate in public reviews to determine whether new tar sands mines and pipelines are in the national interest.

As bestselling Canadian academic and author Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote in The New York Times, “this coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to an industry that is interested only in generating billions more in profits."

Conservative politicians from Alberta and Ottawa also use taxpayers’ dollars to undermine progressive efforts globally and in Europe to combat the catastrophic effects of climate change, all while misrepresenting the risks and benefits of tar sands development.

The promise of easy riches from Alberta’s bitumen boom is turning Canada into a petro-state that is deconstructing the democratic traditions upon which it was founded.

Petrostate Politics Updates & Resources

26,000 sign petition to oust Big Oil from curriculum development


April 12th 2014

Blog Post: Today, Alberta's New Democrat Education Critic Deron Bilous, along with concerned teachers, parents and students, presented more than 26,000 names on a petition to Alberta Education to remove big oil and gas from curriculum redevelopment. “It was only a few weeks ago that we, and consequently, all Albertans learned about this PC government’s plan to give big oil and gas a major seat at the table to develop K-3 curriculum and beyond. The outrage has been deafening,” said Bilous.

Do links between the Conservative Party and Ethical Oil break election rules?


April 9th 2014

Blog Post: It’s one thing to cooperate – it’s another thing entirely to collude in order to get around laws that help make our democracy work. So Greenpeace Canada has asked Elections Canada to investigate whether the Conservative Party is colluding with the Ethical Oil Institute in violation of the measures in the Canada Elections Act that prohibit donations to federal political parties from corporations.

Local businesses denied intervenor status in TransMountain hearings

Liz McDowell | CRED BC - April 3rd 2014

Blog Post: CRED BC, a collection of over 90 BC-based businesses, along with several other local business leaders, have been denied intervenor status in hearings on Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Today's announcement by the National Energy Board (NEB) left CRED's members with questions about the hearing process, particularly the level of consideration given to economic concerns. "Such a large infrastructure development project will have direct & lasting impacts on many local businesses," said CRED Executive Director Liz McDowell.

Is Canada Tarring Itself?


Jacques Leslie | New York Times - March 31st 2014

Press Clipping: Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes. Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition. Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.

Questions raised about independence of oilsands monitoring agency

Sheila Pratt | Edmonton Journal - March 24th 2014

Press Clipping: A former Conservative environment minister who led the fight against Kyoto Protocol limits on greenhouse gases has been appointed head of the government’s new oil sands environmental monitoring agency. Lorne Taylor, environment minister in 2001-04 in the Klein era, will head the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency — a move that has opposition critics howling.

Joe Oliver draws criticism for calling Canada a “21st Century Energy Superpower”


Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - March 17th 2014

Press Clipping: At East Coast Energy Conference this week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said that “Canada is emerging as a 21st century energy superpower – unmatched in reliability, responsibility and potential.” Of the grandiose title Mark Jaccard, professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, said “Presumably it means that a country receives significant revenues from energy exports.“Linking this reality to the word ‘superpower’ might best be described by adjectives such as hubris and hype.”

Another firm that evaluated Keystone for State Department had ties to TransCanada

Kate Sheppard | Huffington Post - March 13th 2014

Press Clipping: The contractor that evaluated greenhouse gas emissions for the State Department's Keystone XL report is the latest company to come under fire for its ties to TransCanada, the prospective builder of the controversial pipeline. A conflict-of-interest statement from the consulting firm ICF International, submitted to the State Department in 2012, reveals that the company had done other work for TransCanada.