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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

Canadian government pushing First Nations to give up land rights for oil and gas profits

Martin Lukacs | The Guardian - March 4th 2015

Press Clipping: The Harper government is collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to win support for its pipelines and resource agenda by pushing First Nations to sideline their aboriginal rights in exchange for business opportunities, a revelation that is sparking strong criticism from grassroots Indigenous people. “Opposition to these projects by aboriginal groups may doom the development of oil, and natural gas pipelines and related infrastructure,” said envoy Douglas Eyford, "because neither industry nor our trading partners are prepared to idly stand by to wait out the results of judicial proceedings that can take a generation to complete."

Canada needs to admit it has no climate change reviews, plans or policy

Cameron Fenton | 350.org Canada - March 2nd 2015

Blog Post: Canada has no climate regulations, massive pipeline projects like Energy East receive no climate review, and all in all we have no plan for managing the climate impacts of our nation's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions -- the tar sands. Not simply an environmental catastrophe in the making, this has become a reality because of a single-minded push from Stephen Harper to shackle our economy to dirty tar sands exports, a gamble proving ill planned while the price of oil stays at record lows. Meanwhile, almost no politicians seem willing to say, let alone to take action to change things.

Crude Awakening: How the Keystone veto dashes Canada’s ‘superpower’ dreams


Tim Dickinson | Rolling Stone Magazine - February 25th 2015

Press Clipping: Barack Obama's veto of Keystone XL has placed the export pipeline for Canadian tar-sands crude on its deathbed. As we, in the United States, consider the fate of our own massive oil reserves and confront the specter of yet another Bush presidency, Stephen Harper's Canada offers a cautionary tale — about the economic and political havoc that can be unleashed when a first-world nation yokes itself to Tea Party economics and to the boom and bust of Big Oil.

Rejecting fear and fighting for a safe climate

Cameron Fenton | 350.org Canada - February 23rd 2015

Blog Post: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police leaked a report targeting the activities of what they call the "anti-petroleum movement" of "peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society's reliance on fossil fuels." The report came just weeks after it came to light that FBI agents were investigating American anti-tar sands activists, visiting them at their homes and places of work. If nothing else, these attempts to polarize opposition prove one thing -- that governments are paying attention to the growing movement for climate justice.

9 weirdest things about this RCMP intelligence report on the “anti-petroleum movement”

February 19th 2015

Blog Post: The Mounties always get their man. But a newly disclosed intelligence assessment from the RCMP looking at the "anti-Canada petroleum movement" suggests the same might not always be true about their facts. A closer look at the intelligence assessment reveals much of the report relies on information patched together from sources like oil industry lobbyists and media outlets sympathetic to the oil industry -- in some cases leading to bizarre conclusions.

Internal RCMP document names “violent anti-petroleum extremists” threat to government, industry

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - February 18th 2015

Press Clipping: An internal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) document (provided in full below) warns “violent anti-petroleum extremists” driven by an “anti-petroleum ideology” pose a criminal threat to Canada’s oil and gas industry. Yet representatives from Canada’s broad environmental movement say the document is another example of the Harper government’s efforts to criminalize legitimate civil dissent such as peaceful climate activism and pipeline opposition.

Caring about the climate is not a crime in Canada. Yet.


Keith Stewart | Greenpeace Canada - February 17th 2015

Blog Post: When I read the RCMP’s January 2014 assessment of what they call the “growing, highly organized and well-financed, anti-Canadian petroleum movement,” my first reaction was to laugh at just how ridiculous it was. It was written in what the Globe and Mail calls “highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists” that looked like a bureaucratic agency making a case to their political masters for a larger budget. But then I thought about the new terrorism bill, and it became genuinely scary.

‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say


Shawn McCarthy | Globe and Mail - February 17th 2015

Press Clipping: The RCMP has labelled the “anti-petroleum” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation. In highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that such groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that extremists are willing to resort to violence.