Citizen Action Monitor

Exposé — Canada’s oil industry “captures” governments, serves private not public interests   

“When that happens, democracy stops being democratic,” says former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party.

No 2161 Posted by fw, February 11, 2018

“Numerous times when the federal government has said ‘Okay, we’re going to deal with climate change. We’re going to put modest regulations in place for emissions.’ Yet we’ve seen time and time again where the government one minute is talking about doing climate policy and the next minute it’s gone.”Adam Scott, campaigner, Oil Change International

“They have a political influence that is way larger than their actual economic influence. But I think part of what they’ve done is they’ve convinced government officials and many Canadians that they are a crucial part of the economy, when the reality is they’re a small part…”Keith Stewart, energy strategist, Greenpeace Canada

“While the energy industry in Canada produces less that 7% of GDP, and employs only 270,000 Canadians directly, it dominates policy at the federal level, and, in particular, the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.” —Paul Jay, Producer, The Real News Network

“Through her whole career and her whole party, up until they became government, were very effective critics, counterbalances to the oil industry. As soon as she stepped into office, as soon as she and her party became government they’ve simply become instruments of the oil industry”Kevin Taft, former leader, Alberta Liberals

The above comments are excerpts from an 8:32-minute Real News video, embedded below, revealing the extent of Canada’s oil industry’s influence over government policy makers. The story is laid out in video clips of PM Trudeau, Alberta premier Rachel Notley, an executive VP of the oil industry, and three expert witnesses. Real News producer Paul Jay stitches the story together with his narration.

My transcript appears below the video. A staggered layout of the text, along with text highlighting and added headings to highlight the main ideas, are intended to enhance readability.

Paul Jay is the behind-the-scenes narrator of the video.

Expert commentators include: Kevin Taft, former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party; Adam Scott, campaigner with Oil Change International in Toronto; Keith Stewart, energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada in Toronto; and Terry Abel, Executive VP, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

To watch the video on the Real News website, click on the following linked title.

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Is the Oil Industry Canada’s ‘Deep State’? The Real News Network, February 10, 2018

Justin Trudeau and Canada’s political elite is fighting for the Tar Sands and oil industry’s interests, even if it means Canada misses all of its climate targets — Kevin Taft, ex-Liberal Party politician and author of ‘Oil’s Deep State’

TRANSCRIPT

Notley & Trudeau vs. BC

Paul Jay, narrator — Last week the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia announced it was introducing new regulations which would halt the expansion of a pipeline connecting Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Ocean. This immediately triggered a political was between the governments of Alberta, lead by premier Rachel Notley, and prime minister Justin Trudeau on one side, and the government of British Columbia on the other.

Notley threatens legal action

Notley threatened legal action and other economic penalties against BC —

Notley – These actions are unconstitutional.

“Pipeline will be built,” declares defiant Trudeau

While Trudeau promised the pipeline would be built.

Trudeau – Moving forward is approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline which will be able to get our resources responsibly and safely to new markets across the Pacific.

Oil industry is “A State within a State”

The dominant influence of the oil industry in Canadian politics, as seen in the reactions of Trudeau and Notley has been likened by some to a state within the state.

Kevin Taft – The oil industry, the oil state in Canada is powerful.

Kevin Taft, a former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party, has written a book making this case.

Taft – My argument is that over 25 years or so the oil industry has worked very hard to gain influence through various means at the federal level over Environment Canada, over Natural Resources Canada, over the Prime Minister’s Office…

“Canada’s back. We’ll cut emissions 30% by 2030” – Trudeau in 2015

Indeed after Trudeau became prime minister in 2015 he flew to Europe and announced he would cut Canada’s greenhouse emissions by about 30% by 2030.

TrudeauCanada is back, my good friends. We’re here to help to build an agreement that will do our children and our grandchildren proud.

Today, Trudeau pushes for 3 new oil sands pipelines

But since then, Trudeau has pushed for 3 new pipelines for the oil sands. And critics say he’s taken no steps to curb emissions from the oil and gas sector, which produces more than one-quarter of all of Canada’s greenhouse gases.

Trudeau repeatedly breaks promises

Adam Scott — Canada has been trying to deal with the issue of climate change for almost 20 years now. But to this day we don’t have any federal climate policy to directly target the oil and gas industry.

Adam Scott is a campaigner with Oil Change International in Toronto.

Scott – Numerous times when the federal government has said “Okay, we’re going to deal with climate change. We’re going to put modest regulations in place for emissions.” Yet we’ve seen time and time again where the government one minute is talking about doing climate policy and the next minute it’s gone.

While the concept of the “deep state” has been embraced by Donald Trump and the Alt-Right, it’s a term that’s historically been used to describe entrenched corporate or military national security power in countries like Turkey, Egypt and the United States.

When governments are captured by corporate interests, democracy dies

Taft – I wanted to give it a little bit of academic structure. So I linked it to the notion of institutional capture, which has a very long history and literature in which agencies of one kind or another set up to serve the public interest regulators or government departments or so on, end up serving the private interests instead of the public interests.

Taft argues that when governments are captured by corporate interests such as oil companies elections become more meaningless.

TaftWhen that happens democracy stops being democratic. The state actually becomes … what you end up with is an “appearance” of democracy. But really it’s a state within a state.

Canada’s oil industry’s huge power & influence over governments

One way the oil industry gets its way is through its effective lobbying of government, especially by organizations like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Keith Stewart — The oil industry has a lot of clout in this country because they have some of the most influential lobbyists. They meet hundreds of times a year with federal officials.

Keith Stewart is an energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada in Toronto.

StewartThey have a political influence that is way larger than their actual economic influence. But I think part of what they’ve done is they’ve convinced government officials and many Canadians that they are a crucial part of the economy, when the reality is they’re a small part.

Yet the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) says they are invited by the government to “offer their perspective on issues affecting the industry.”

Terry Abel, oil industry VP — Our industry wants to engage with government as they’re requesting. But a big part of what we do in engaging with governments is actually understanding what objectives the government’s trying to achieve, what their reasons for wanting to achieve those objectives are so that we can actually be a responsible stakeholder at the table.

Energy industry only 7% of GDP & only 270,000 employees – but dominates gov. policy

Still, while the energy industry in Canada produces less that 7% of GDP, and employs only 270,000 Canadians directly, it dominates policy at the federal level, and, in particular, the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Harper gov. made big push to get Keystone XL approved

Stewart — You know, this was really visible during the debate around Keystone XL in the US where the oil industry was spending millions of dollars lobbying and advertising in Washington DC. And the federal government was as well, sending envoys from various departments and diplomats were spending government, taxpayer dollars on advertising.

Since ’97 Canada has missed every emission reduction target

The result is that since 1997 when it signed the Kyoto Climate Accord, Canada has missed every target to cut emissions. Instead, since then emissions have grown and remain at more than 700 megatons a year.

Canada promised reduced emissions while allowing oil industry to grow

Stewart – So Canada actually promised to reduce our emissions at the same time as saying we’re going to allow our oil and gas industry to grow substantially.

NDP premier Notley quickly became champion of oil industry

In Alberta, with the election of the NDP, the Rachel Notley government in 2015, the power of the oil industry was witnessed in how quickly the new premier became a champion of its interests.

TaftThrough her whole career and her whole party, up until they became government, were very effective critics, counterbalances to the oil industry. As soon as she stepped into office, as soon as she and her party became government they’ve simply become instruments of the oil industry, in my view.

Notley is allowing Big Oil to increase emissions by additional 40%

While Notley introduced a carbon tax, and is phasing out coal, she permitting the oil industry to increase emissions by 40% above its current output. And she’s fought for pipelines connecting the oil sands to ocean ports.

StewartIn real terms, Alberta is on track to dramatically increase its emissions in coming years regardless of the fact that the Alberta government has put in a suite of climate policies.

Trudeau breaks promise to cut Big Oil subsidies, pushes pipelines, fails to curb emissions

The Trudeau government has shown similar deference. It has so far reneged on its promise to cut $1.6 billion in subsidies to oil companies, has championed pipelines to the oil sands, and according to critics, not moved aggressively enough to curb the energy sector’s greenhouse emissions.

StewartSo, as it stands today, the Trudeau government in on track to fail a couple of its major policy initiatives because of the power of the oil and gas industry to control the narrative.

Time is running out on 2°C threshold target

Today Kevin Taft says that unless Canada breaks the power and influence of the oil industry we will be left behind in the race to build an economy based on renewables. And time is running out. Leading climate scientists are saying that passing the threshold of a 2°C increase in global temperatures by 2050 or sooner is looking more assured than ever.

“We’ve allowed our leaders to become captured by private interest…”

Taft – Canada’s made itself a laggard on the transition to moving away from fossil fuel energy. And we are vulnerable because we’ve hitched ourselves to yesterday’s technology; it’s the last century’s technology. And the world is moving very rapidly away from that. But we have to. For our own sake we have to. We’ve allowed our leaders to become captured by one private interest and it’s going to hurt us badly.

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