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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

The Faulty Logic Behind the Argument That Canada’s Emissions Are a ‘Drop in the Bucket’

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - April 17th 2015

Press Clipping: The debate about climate change isn’t merely a moral one. The cost of failing to act will almost certainly outweigh the costs of acting. Think: floods, heat waves, adaptation efforts, rising sea levels, water scarcity, lower crop yields and wildfires. Economic research by experts like Yale’s William Nordhaus demonstrates that waiting to act on climate will cost a lot — like in the trillions-of-dollars a lot. Canada’s poor-sport attitude on climate change amounts to a major ‘tragedy of the commons’ outcome: If everyone shrugs off their individual responsibilities, we’re all going to suffer.

If pipelines are dead, Harper helped kill them

L. Ian MacDonald | iPolitics - April 15th 2015

Press Clipping: Nobody can pretend Canada is a world leader on fighting climate change. We signed on to the 2009 Copenhagen target of reducing emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. We’re on course to miss that target … by a lot. As David McLaughlin, former head of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, recently wrote in Policymagazine: “Without additional measures, Canada will miss its target by … almost 50 per cent.”

Why don’t we have GHG policy for the oil sands? Blame Stephen Harper.

Andrew Leach | Policy Options - April 14th 2015

Press Clipping: There is one person to blame for the fact that Canada, to date, does not have greenhouse gas policy for the oil sands: Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Had greenhouse gas policy for the oil sands and other major emitters been seen as critical to the federal government’s agenda, they’d be implemented today. As it happens, they’re not.

Canada will miss its climate target and we’ll all miss out

Carol Linnitt | Desmog Canada - April 2nd 2015

Press Clipping: I don't think anyone in Canada expects our good country to meet its climate target -- even with the imminent pressure of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris later this year weighing down on our collective shoulders. We have no reason to harbour that expectation given that our own federal government via Environment Canada has been telling us for years that Canada is running off the climate track and -- because of growing emissions largely from the oil and gas sector -- we are getting farther and farther away from meeting our government's self-imposed climate targets. Because of that climate failure, Canada is holding all of us back from prosperity, jobs and better health.

Canada lags on greenhouse gas targets, critics charge

Tom Parry | CBC News - March 31st 2015

Press Clipping: Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray said his province is frustrated with the federal government’s silence on climate change plan. "We need the federal government to play a leadership role in the federation. They’ve got to work with particularly Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and we need to see what they can put on the table to enable [greenhouse gas] reductions," Murray said. "They’ve got to be part of it. They can’t simply publish an inventory of what the provinces are doing and then making that Canada’s contribution. We need leadership here."

Alberta’s new head of climate change plan, Diana McQueen, blows smoke while province fails to act

James Wilt | Desmog Canada - March 31st 2015

Press Clipping: The idea that within the next five years, Alberta — the province responsible for over 35 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 — would meet its emissions targets would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. But that’s what was said. And by Diana McQueen, a former minister of environment, no less. But according to Environment Canada’s most recent projections for emissions, Alberta’s annual output will instead grow to 287 megatonnes a year — an overall increase of 55 megatonnes, which means that the target (a 12 per cent increase from the 2005 number) will be missed by a full 27 Mt.

Science museums urged to cut ties with fossil fuel donors

Katherine Bagley | InsideClimate News - March 30th 2015

Press Clipping: Hundreds of museums across the country––including some of the most prestigious––are being asked by more than 30 scientists to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry. In a letter sent to more than 330 science and natural history centers on Tuesday, the researchers said that when "some of the biggest…funders of misinformation on climate science" give millions of dollars to science-focused museums, it acts to "undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions.” The campaign comes just weeks after the release of public documents show Smithsonian-affiliated astrophysicist Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon published articles arguing that the sun, not greenhouse gases, is driving modern climate change after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests.

Provincial energy-climate agreement cannot trade climate for tar sands pipelines


Editors | Tar Sands Solutions - March 27th 2015

Blog Post: Environmental groups across Canada today responded to a new pan-provincial energy agreement cautioning that no climate progress can be made if tar sands pipelines are approved. "A pan-provincial climate deal that greenlights tar sands expansion is a complete non-starter to any serious climate discussion," said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada. "The science is very clear that more than 85% of tar sands reserves need to remain in the ground if we want to stabilize the planet. It's time we listened to the science, said no to the pipelines and yes to the green energy that Canadians want."