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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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Overview:
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

Anti-pipeline fervour not the legacy Stephen Harper had in mind: Hébert

Feature

Chantal Hébert | Toronto Star - November 25th 2014

Press Clipping: On paper the federal government and the National Energy Board have the final say on pipeline approvals. But there are myriad ways for a province to block or delay a federal infrastructure project and it would not be the first time that voters had forced governments to think twice about allowing a controversial one to go forward. The fact that otherwise business-friendly provincial governments are putting more and more distance between themselves and the pipeline file is a sign that public opposition to these projects is fast spreading well beyond the environmental movement.

Conservative candidate tells CBC that renewable energy supporters are “extremists”

November 20th 2014

Blog Post: Ron Liepert, a former Alberta Energy Minister and Conservative candidate for Calgary Signal Hill in the upcoming 2015 election, delivered a master class in ad hominem reasoning this week for listeners of CBC Radio's The Current. Debating the Keystone pipeline with Greenpeace Canada's Keith Stewart, Liepert repeatedly complained of "extreme environmentalists" with "extreme arguments" waging "extreme environmental attacks on Alberta's oil industry" for calling for a transition to renewable energy sources.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe: House vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline an act of war

Feature

Editors | Tar Sands Solutions Network - November 16th 2014

Blog Post: In response to the recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the Rosebud Sioux Tribal president announced that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) recognizes the authorization of this pipeline as an act of war. “The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands,” said President Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Europe is tiptoeing around Canada’s climate change record

Campbell Clark | Globe and Mail - November 12th 2014

Press Clipping: Francois Hollande was here to do business, so he was careful to be positive when it came to the tricky matter of Canada’s record on climate change. When a French TV reporter asked Mr. Hollande if it’s a conflict to urge French companies to invest in Alberta when it is home to the “very polluting” oil sands, Mr. Harper jumped in to say, “for information purposes” that Canada had reduced emissions from the oil sands by 40 per cent in recent years. But of course, that’s not true.

What do Norwegians know that Albertans don’t?

November 11th 2014

Visual: At first, the oil companies balked at Norway's proposal and took their efforts elsewhere, but the Norwegian government took a "take it or leave it" stance and about a year later the oil companies agreed to Norway’s terms. In contrast, in 2007 an independent Alberta Royalty Review Panel advised that the total government take (Alberta and Canada, taxes and royalties) should be increased, and Alberta could still remain an attractive investment destination. The total take was increased temporarily, but after criticism from the oil and gas industry, royalties were rolled back again in 2010.

Has the National Energy Board been ‘captured by industry’?

Daniel Tencer | Huffington Post Canada - November 7th 2014

Press Clipping: The National Energy Board, the federal panel that determines which pipelines and tar sands projects will and won’t get built is “a truly industry captured regulator,” according to Marc Eliesen, a former CEO of BC Hydro and former Suncor board member. "In my view the NEB hearing process is a rigged game.” And it has done so with the help of federal government policy: since it took power in 2006, the Harper government has stacked the NEB with industry insiders to the exclusion of almost anyone else.

The wars at home: What state surveillance of an indigenous rights campaigner tells us about risk

Shiri Pasternak | DeSmog Blog - November 4th 2014

Press Clipping: Recent revelations that the RCMP spied on Indigenous environmental rights activist Clayton Thomas-Muller should not be dismissed as routine monitoring. They reveal a long-term, national energy strategy that is coming increasingly into conflict with Indigenous rights and assertions of Indigenous jurisdiction over lands and resources.

Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’

Eric Lipton | New York Times - October 31st 2014

Press Clipping: If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives recently. “You can either win ugly or lose pretty,” said Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of a Washington-based PR firm as he solicited $3 million to finance an advertising campaign called Big Green Radicals.