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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

Tarsands blinding Alberta to its true renewable potential


Mike Hudema | Greenpeace Canada - October 14th 2014

Blog Post: Greenpeace has embarked on an Alberta tour to two cities, three rural communities and two First Nations to talk about solutions. The Alberta government is so fixated on extracting the destructive tar sands that it’s missing out on Alberta’s real potential. Rather than causing rising greenhouse gas emissions, countless treaty rights violations, incredible disturbances to land, air and water, the government could be a leader in clean energy solutions. Help us push the Alberta government to catch up.

Can scientists speak?

Katie Gibbs | Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy - October 9th 2014

Blog Post: Evidence for Democracy has released the stunning findings of a research study that found, among other things, that government media policies do not support open and timely communication between scientists and journalists, nor do they protect scientists’ right to free speech. The report, "Can Scientists Speak? Grading communication policies for federal government scientists,” grades 16 Canadian federal government departments on their communication and media policies. The findings are shocking.

Pay attention to Syncrude’s legal efforts to eliminate greenhouse gas regulation

Gillian Steward - October 8th 2014

Press Clipping: One of Canada’s largest oil sands operators went to court to have a federal greenhouse gas regulation declared unconstitutional. The company not only lost the case but the judge declared that Syncrude was denying reality when it came to greenhouse gases and the danger they pose to the environment and human health. The case is highly significant, according to Nigel Bankes, chair of Natural Resources Law at the University of Calgary, because it is the first court challenge to the constitutional validity of any federal greenhouse gas regulations.

Harper’s timeline: Canada on climate change from 2006-2014

Mike De Souza | Desmog Canada - October 7th 2014

Press Clipping: On the eve of an international climate change summit of government leaders in New York, Canada is being challenged about its own domestic record in addressing the heat-trapping pollution that contributes to global warming. Here’s a historical timeline of some of the major climate change policies, statements and related decisions made by Canada since 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected to form a government.

Treading water on climate change

John Bennett | Sierra Club Canada - October 7th 2014

Blog Post: The Environment Commissioner’s audit documents Canada’s lack of action on climate change, preventing pollution from the Tar Sands and lack of preparation for increasing shipping in the Arctic. “Canada is treading water on climate change, tar sands pollution and arctic shipping,” said Sierra Club’s John Bennett. “We need legislation, regulation and enforcement.”

Colin Carrie claims Tory government is ‘A World Leader’ on climate change?

Michael Bolen | Huffington Post Canada - September 25th 2014

Press Clipping: The parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment raised eyebrows Monday when he twice argued that Canada's Conservative government is "a world leader in addressing climate change.” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May challenged Carrie's assertion that "greenhouse gas emissions are falling", a statement that is not backed up by Environment Canada's own statistics.