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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

Northern Gateway is a zombie project

Don McLean | Hamilton 350 - July 22nd 2014

Blog Post: There is good news for Canada's democracy and environment. It comes in the form of federal government approval of Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, designed to carry tar sands bitumen 1,200 kilometres across wilderness areas of Alberta and British Columbia to Kitimat. So how is this good news? Because pretty much everyone now agrees the approval is hardly worth the paper it is written on.

Thomson: On pipelines and veterans, feds are marching to a different drum


Graham Thomson | Edmonton Journal - July 21st 2014

Press Clipping: Government officials in the Privy Council Office — who give advice to the prime minister — concluded that Canadians’ were not supportive of the Northern Gateway pipeline. “There is little enthusiasm for the project, even among supporters,” said the officials. “Detractors worry about the environmental consequences in the event of a spill, particularly as a result of a tanker accident off the B.C. coast. There is an appreciation that increased market access for oil will be economically beneficial, but there is still a desire to do so in a more environmentally safe manner.”

On emissions, talk has been Ottawa’s only action

Jeffrey Simpson | Globe and Mail - July 19th 2014

Press Clipping: Bruce Carson saw the early years of the Harper government from the inside, and today he wonders why Prime Minister Harper hasn’t bothered to implement policies to reduce GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector. "What happened to the resolve Harper expressed in January, 2010, in relation to the oil and gas sector, especially the oil sands?”

Tom Levy: Federal Climate Change Action Needed in Canada

Tom Levy | Technical and Utility Affairs at the Canadian Wind Energy Association - July 10th 2014

Blog Post: The evidence is clear: countries around the world, heeding the call of scientists and insurance companies alike, are adopting policies and regulations to address anthropogenic sources of GHGs. While some work has been done in Canada, there are many more opportunities available to us to reduce our emissions.

Karen Campbell: A tale of two pipelines in B.C.

Karen Campbell | Straight.Com - July 3rd 2014

Press Clipping: It seems like every time we turn on the radio or open a newspaper somebody is talking about pipeline proposals that would transport bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to tide water. And while there is no shortage of ecosystem, climate, and health risks associated with these proposals, the review processes themselves are coming to symbolize a blatant disregard for open, transparent, and informed decision-making.

We can thrive without pipelines and oilsands

Guy Dauncey | Times Colonist - June 25th 2014

Press Clipping: So Canada's federal government has finally approved construction of the proposed Enbridge pipeline to carry bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to Kitimat, and thence by ocean to China. If we do not go ahead, the prime minister warns us, Canada's economy will be in grave danger. What if this wasn't true?

Will we ever be proud of our oil sands?

Konrad Yakabuski | The Globe and Mail - June 24th 2014

Press Clipping: In an essay published last week in Montreal’s Le Devoir and Le Monde of Paris, Nancy Houston, native Albertan, describes the oil sands as a threat to humanity – and not just for the “rape of the land that irreversibly empoisons the water and air.”