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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

How low can it go? Collapsing crude in election season


Hannah McKinnon | Oil Change International - August 26th 2015

Blog Post: In the lead up to the Canadian federal election, the economy is front and centre, but not in the way the incumbent government would have liked. The Conservatives have gone to great lengths to brand themselves as good economic managers, but with the Canadian dollar hitting its lowest point in over a decade, their election case is losing credibility fast. The Harper Government focussed too much attention on the Alberta tar sands, and when crude oil prices crashed late last year, the strategic weaknesses of this plan were clear.

NEB in survival mode, after hiring Kinder Morgan consultant

Robyn Allan | National Observer - August 24th 2015

Press Clipping: The National Energy Board (NEB) has lost credibility as a regulator of the public interest. The hearing into Kinder Morgan’s proposed tripling of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project has been a sham. The Canadian public recognizes the NEB’s failure. Except for Harper’s Conservatives, all contenders in the federal election understand it’s a farce.

NEB postpones Kinder Morgan hearing following Steven Kelly’s appointment


Jennifer Moreau | Burnaby NOW - August 22nd 2015

Press Clipping: The National Energy Board is postponing the Kinder Morgan hearing until further notice because Steven Kelly, the board’s most recent appointee, is a consultant who worked on the Trans Mountain pipeline file. NEB spokesperson Tara O’Donovan wrote that, "The dual role of Mr. Kelly ... may raise concerns about the integrity of this hearing process.”

Canadian Province kills renewable energy program that was the first of its kind

Hilary Beaumont | Vice News - August 21st 2015

Press Clipping: At a critical time for climate policy worldwide, one Canadian province has killed a popular renewable energy program that supported wind farms and other small-scale projects. Nova Scotia announced recently it will nix the small-scale feed-in tariff, arguing it put "pressure" on power rates in the small Atlantic province that is struggling economically.

It’s time to change Canada’s climate politics

Cam Fenton | 350.org - August 19th 2015

Blog Post: On October 19th, people across Canada will head to the polls and then, just a few weeks later, hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, and then propose national plans to meet that goal -- but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.

Australia carbon plan sends shudder through neighbours

Matt McGrath | BBC News - August 13th 2015

Press Clipping: The Australian government recently announced its emissions reduction target for 2030, and it sucks. Figures from the Australian think tank, the Climate Institute show that Mr Abbott's new plan will cut emissions by 20% of 1990 levels by 2030. The US will cut by 32%, the EU by 40%, and the UK will have reduced carbon dioxide by 66%. What about Canada? Harper’s GHG reduction plan is worse than Australia’s.