The Canadian oil and gas sector has been under attack for years by a highly organized, well-funded, and extremely effective group of activists. How successful has this group been? Since the Tar Sands Campaign document was released in 2008, it has succeeded in focusing the heat on Canada’s oil and gas industry with the precision of a sunbeam through a magnifying glass and the results are alarming.
Ten years in, after a glorious campaign of Houdini-like misdirection, performed in part by the world’s biggest celebrities, Canada’s five per cent of global oil production — the cleanest, most ethically produced five million barrels out of a 100 million BPD global demand — is such a proxy for the global climate crisis that all Canadians will be taxed for it, and our provincial and federal governments are locked in a battle over its future.
It’s hard to imagine even the organizers of this communications masterpiece envisioned just how successful they would be. Two pipelines cancelled? Great! Another pipeline locked in never-ending consultations and protests? Excellent! An operative behind enemy lines calling the shots for the Oilsands Advisory Committee? Wow!! The prime minister talking about phasing out the oilsands? Perfect!! A rift between provincial and federal units of the strongest environmentally focused political party in the country? Wait a minute… what?! From an execution standard, this strategic implementation was flawless.
Premier Rachel Notley’s recent challenges against the federal government over Bill C-69 are just the latest battles in what has become a multi-front constitutional crisis. Premier Notley is likely starting to realize what Canadian oil and gas supporters have known for years: the more we do to appease highly organized and paid opponents, the more we are asked to do. As our governments scramble to comply with their demands, the remaining 95 per cent of the hydrocarbon producing world moves along uncontested, expanding their market share.
Bill C-69, Bill C-48, the carbon tax, the cancellation of two major pipelines, and the endless delays on the Trans Mountain Expansion project would lead one to believe governments want to shut down our oil and gas industry. The truth, however, is that well-funded activists have worked hard in selling us the story that Canadian oil and gas is bad, and as we can see from the aforementioned legislation, our political leaders are drinking the toxic Kool-Aid.
The question is, when will more of Canada’s leaders look past the well-executed parlour tricks, and help stop our country from being played the fool? One need only read a few lines from the Tar Sands Campaign to see how the trick is done: “Celebrity spokespersons, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are being recruited to lend their ‘brand’ to opponents of tar sands. Feature stories in high visibility media will also be critical for telling the negative story. Generating a high negative media profile for tar sands oil is a critical part of the change strategy,” says activist Michael J. Marx of Corporate Ethics International.
It’s time for Canadians to stop being played as fools. We have the cleanest, most responsible energy industry in the world, and getting it to global markets means we can reduce emissions in ways that are meaningful while creating good jobs and bringing in tax and resource revenues. The publicly available strategy of our opponents is unfolding before us. If we don’t start standing up for Canada’s oil and gas industry soon, the activists, as they have so clearly defined, will have won — “We will win this campaign when we recruit a critical mass of these decision-makers to agree to slow down, cut-back, and eventually stop the flow of tar sands oil altogether,” says Marx —and all regular, hardworking Canadians will have lost a great deal.