Tar Sands Solutions Network

Join Us On:

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.

Learn More

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

Canada’s new energy strategy reveals irreconcilable rifts in aspirations on climate and tar sands

Anthony Swift | NRDC - July 22nd 2015

Blog Post: Following a week of negotiations, Canada's provincial and territorial premiers have released a 'unified Canadian Energy Strategy' which reveals sharp divisions in the country's aspirations. Unfortunately, the strategy as released reflects an incompatible and unworkable hybrid, promoting the expansion of high carbon tar sands infrastructure and the need to decarbonize Canada's economy. The problem with this approach is that Alberta's expanding tar sands sector happens to be the reason that Canada is the only developed nation that is expected to miss its international climate targets.

Pope Francis, in sweeping encyclical, calls for swift action on climate change


Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein | New York Times - June 18th 2015

Press Clipping: Pope Francis called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action. The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness.

Why Jeb Bush and other Republicans are wrong to chide Pope Francis for taking a climate stand


Andrew Revkin | New York Times - June 18th 2015

Press Clipping: Scientific knowledge reveals options. Values determine choices.That is why the Roman Catholic Church — with its global reach, the ethical framework in its social justice teachings and, as with all great religions, the ability to reach hearts as well as minds — can play a valuable role in this consequential century. This is particularly true for planet-scale problems like human-driven climate change, in which national governments tend to put national interests ahead of planet-scale interests.

As Harper stalls on climate, Canada moves without him


Geoff Dembicki | The Tyee - June 16th 2015

Press Clipping: Harper’s Conservative government passed laws to accelerate the growth of Canada's oil and gas industry, while pledging carbon regulations that never came. He pulled Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, muzzled federal scientists and cut funding to their research, strong-armed the U.S. on bitumen pipelines and set climate targets he had no clear intention of meeting. But something unexpected happened. A frustrated cohort of students, provinces, investors and unions decided to take decisive climate action on its own. As the federal election this fall nears, how long will Harper ignore the forces rising against him?

Global warming: It’s the economy, stupid

Editorial Board | Globe and Mail - June 16th 2015

Press Clipping: We take the conclusions of climate science as a given. The scientific consensus means that political action to address it is inevitable. Something big is going to have to be done, eventually, and many small steps are already being taken. That means the most pressing question isn’t whether to cut back on emissions. Guess what economics says is the most efficient way to lower the consumption of anything? Raise the price of it – and let the market, millions of people and businesses, each individually figure out how to save money by reducing their use of this newly expensive thing, while also stimulating researchers and entrepreneurs into developing alternatives.

One devastating chart shows how Stephen Harper’s done diddly squat developing green technologies

June 11th 2015

Blog Post: While Stephen Harper champions the importance of creating “lower carbon-emitting sources of energy” to combat climate change, a new report found that Canada does almost nothing to stimulate new low-carbon energy sources. Between 2005 and 2013, Canada’s share of the global market for renewable energy and environmental goods has fallen -- yes, fallen -- by a whopping 41%.

What happened to Canada?

Tzeporah Berman - June 11th 2015

Blog Post: We have discovered that oil corrodes, not only our pipelines but also our democracy. Our dwindling international reputation, increasing tensions with our closest neighbors, escalating conflicts with First Nations and the erosion of our democracy all stem from the Harper government’s belligerent attempts to expand the oilsands at all costs.

Document shows Canadian government has been fully aware of tar sands dangers


Jennifer Skene | NRDC - June 11th 2015

Blog Post: A document recently released under Canada's access-to-information law reveals that Canadian government officials have been aware of the proliferation of contaminants associated with tar sands mining even as they continues to promote industry expansion with minimal regulation. Yet even with the knowledge furnished by this briefing note, the Canadian government has continued to promote the expansion of the tar sands industry, particularly through its support for tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL and Energy East.