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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

Did the Conservatives actually read damning Lac-Mégantic report?


August 20th 2014

Press Clipping: Just tell people you haven't gotten around to reading the report yet. Because if you haven't read it, it hasn't happened yet. That appears to be the Conservatives' bright idea on how to defend themselves against Tuesday's damning Transporation Safety Board report that concluded Transport Canada's weak oversight was a cause and contributing factor in last year's Lac-Mégantic train derailment that killed 47 people.

Fossil fuel economy costs Canada far more jobs than it creates

Mark Taliano | CommonSense Canadian - August 20th 2014

Press Clipping: The current trajectories of Canada’s predominant political economies are increasingly dysfunctional, due in no small part to the fact that we have become, in many respects, a petro state, rather than the much vaunted “Energy Superpower” that we were promised. While Alberta is not a sovereign nation, it does qualify for “petro-state” status under these criterion. So does Norway. But the differences between the two polities ends there. While Norway manages its resource wealth extraordinarily well, Alberta — and Canada, by extension — does not.

Environmentalists want stronger action to reduce oilsands air pollution


Sheila Pratt | Edmonton Journal - August 18th 2014

Press Clipping: The Pembina Institute, an environmental research body, disputed the government and industry view that a level three trigger is “a long way from” the legal limit for either pollutant. “It’s a trigger for action to reduce emission, not a trigger for more investigation,” said Amin Asadollahi, program director of the oilsands for Pembina. “They are not enforcing their own rules.”

Alberta asked U.S. PR firm to help ‘blunt’ criticism about Keystone pipeline

Mike De Souza | Toronto Star - August 14th 2014

Press Clipping: FeverPress, a New York public relations firm hired by the Alberta government to promote the Keystone XL pipeline, wanted to “blunt” criticism from environmentalists. “We do not have to win the environmental argument; we just need to add context and complexity to it so that we can blunt the current arguments against the pipeline. Again, winning the war here is providing enough political cover for the U.S. government to green light the project — not winning over the environmentalists.”

Evangeline Lilly: It’s My Job To Stand Up For Canadian Scientists

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - August 10th 2014

Press Clipping: You may know the Canadian actress for her tough-girl roles in Lost or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But Evangeline Lilly has another battle to fight: the battle for Canada’s scientists. “I think it’s always a little bit scary and astounding when as a citizen of what you consider to be a free nation you discover one day for various reasons … that something awful has been going on under your nose and you didn’t know,” she told DeSmog Canada. “And that happens to me a little more often than I’m comfortable with nowadays.”

CEC to investigate Canada’s failure to enforce its environmental laws


Editors | Tar Sands Solutions Network - August 9th 2014

Blog Post: The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has decided to investigate the Canadian federal government’s refusal to enforce its own environmental legislation as it relates to the ongoing leakage of toxic waste water from tar sands tailings lakes. "Canadians have the right to know the full story when it comes to the government’s management of leaking toxic tailings waste," said Environmental Defence Canada’s Dale Marshall, "and the CEC investigation will help to shed more light on this critical issue."

Canadians deserve honest climate talk


Mark Jaccard | Globe and Mail - August 6th 2014

Press Clipping: Another great op-ed from energy and climate economist Mark Jaccard. He is professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, and one of eight scientists who published a commentary in Nature in June calling for a moratorium on oil sands development. He concludes that "it's time we had some honesty in Canada. Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. We are being horribly let down by the Harper government."

Conservative government renews ineffective ad campaign promoting oilsands

Mike De Souza | Toronto Star - August 2nd 2014

Press Clipping: American environmentalist Danielle Droitsch, who directs the Canada project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “Canada is the only foreign government blanketing Washington D.C. Metro (subway) stations and bus stops to promote a certain industry. It’s unfortunate the Canadian federal government still seems to believe issues around tarsands will be solved by an expensive taxpayer-funded advertising campaign.”