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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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Overview:
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

How Harper misread Obama and botched Keystone XL

Campbell Clark | Globe and Mail - December 17th 2014

Press Clipping: Campbell Clark argues that Canada’s Conservative government has misplayed the politics of the Keystone XL pipeline, and badly. There is a constituency in the United States that wants action on climate change, and they made Keystone a symbol for this battle. But Harper and his fellow Conservatives just pushed harder on the idea that the U.S. was going to need Canadian oil, anyway. This turned out to be a mistake, and it’s almost certainly too late to get Mr. Obama to ever approve this pipeline.

Who killed it? The case of the government’s vanishing climate change press release

Feature

December 16th 2014

Press Clipping: Maybe it was Minister X in the conservatory with the delete button. Natural Resources Canada spent months editing a news release about a devastating climate change report, according to documents newly obtained by PressProgress through Access to Information. Their work was all for naught. The release was never actually issued in what appears to be a textbook example of How to Bury Bad News 101.

The Reality of Stephen Harper vs. The Reality of Carbon Taxes

Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada - December 12th 2014

Press Clipping: Last night Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his house band, the Van Cats, warbled through a performance of the Guns n’ Roses classic ‘Sweet Child of Mine.’ Less than 24 hour earlier that the Prime Minister was singing a different tune, railing against the concept of carbon taxes and regulation of the fossil fuel industry during Question Period in the House of Commons. “It would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector; we're clearly not going to do that. …In fact, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector."

Regulating greenhouse gas emissions isn’t crazy - Harper is

Feature

Kevin Grandia | Spake Media - December 11th 2014

Blog Post: Here in Lima, Peru at the United Nations climate change talks, I am watching negotiators from impacted countries like the Philippines working earnestly on a new agreement to reduce global climate pollution. At the same time, I am reading stories back home about Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the House of Commons yesterday that regulating greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector would be "crazy.” Let's be clear who is crazy here: It’s Mr. Harper and his Conservative government.

Australia and Canada’s Climate Bromance: competing for the lowest rank on climate action

Feature

Kelsey Mech | Canadian Youth Climate Coalition - December 10th 2014

Blog Post: It would seem that Canada and Australia, in their competition for the bottom spot on the 2015 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) rankings, have formed the ultimate bromance, or at least their Heads of State, Harper and Abbott, have. Their bromance is undeniable; neither of them bothered to show up at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City last September. The problem is that their contrarian relationship is contributing to the deadlock on international climate change progress, which could have deadly, long-term consequences.

Conservative MP’s private member’s bill could be used against pipeline protesters

Justin Ling | National Post - December 8th 2014

Press Clipping: A private member’s bill backed by the minister of justice taking aim at industrial thieves could be used to punish environmental protesters, lawyers say. Bill C-639, introduced by Conservative MP Wai Young on Wednesday, would slap harsh penalties on anyone who damages or interferes with critical infrastructure. “It would have application for pipeline protests,” said Toronto lawyer Ed Prutschi, noting that the legislation doesn’t require damage to be done — to be convicted, you would just need to be in the way of critical infrastructure.

CRA got few complaints about charities’ politics prior To 2012

Althia Raj | Huffington Post Canada - December 8th 2014

Press Clipping: Very few Canadians had complained about the political activities of charities before the Conservative government announced plans to audit more charitable groups, newly released data shows. Then, in 2011-2012, around the time then-natural resources minister Joe Oliver called environmentalists “radicals” and Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton urged a Senate investigation into what she said were foreign foundations spending millions “masquerading as charitable donations”, the number of complaints jumped to 139. The fix was in.

Energy firms in secretive alliance with attorneys general

Eric Lipton | New York Times - December 8th 2014

Press Clipping: Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year. Attorneys general are also working collectively. Never before have these powerful bureaucrats joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.