Big Oil’s Political Reach

Mapping fossil fuel lobbying from Harper to Trudeau

Image result for stephen harper justin trudeau
IMAGES VIA CP. 

In Canada between 2011 and 2018 the fossil fuel industry was one of the most active industry groups lobbying the federal government with over six contacts per working day made with government officials. During this period, the intensity of lobbying increased when salient policy issues—like the Environmental Assessment Act—arose or when there were big stakes for industry such as major pipeline decisions and approvals.

This study provides a network analysis of federal lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in Canada, covering both the Conservative government of Stephen Harper and the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.

The network this research uncovers amounts to a small world of intense interaction among relatively few lobbyists and the designated public office holders who are their targets.

In comparing lobbying across the Harper and Trudeau administrations, we find a pattern of continuity-in-change: under Trudeau, the bulk of lobbying was carried out by the same large firms as under Harper but focused more on government bureaucrats rather than the members of Parliament who were more frequently contacted under Harper.

The shifting pattern in focus is concerning as it indicates that elite policy networks outlast election cycles and potentially the stated platforms of elected officials. The study also examines lobbying in relation to specific projects such as pipeline proposals and decisions.

The lobbying period under examination coincides with a period during which climate change was acknowledged as an increasingly urgent threat and one in which the Canadian economy became focused significantly around carbon intensive resources.  SOURCE

This report is part of the Corporate Mapping Project, a research and public engagement initiative investigating the power of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada. The CMP is jointly led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute. 

Alberta targets foreign ‘special interests’ — but omits Big Oil

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Photo: Government of Alberta/FlickrPhoto: Government of Alberta/Flickr

With the exception of Donald Trump’s claim that he’s draining the swamp, it’s hard to imagine a clearer example of gibberish than Jason Kenney’s claim that he’s defending Alberta against “foreign-funded special interests.”

The Alberta premier has launched a public inquiry to expose the foreign funding behind environmental groups opposing his efforts to increase production of Alberta’s carbon-heavy oil.

But Kenney’s claim to be shielding Albertans from foreign “special interests” is absurdly selective; he’s planning to shine the light on a small slice of foreign influence, while keeping the spotlight away from the massive foreign influence exerted by Big Oil.

If there’s ever been a foreign player wielding influence in Canada, it’s been Big Oil, which has exercised a virtual stranglehold over Alberta politics during the last few decades. But that story — and Kenney’s complicity in it — is one the premier is determined to keep under wraps.

“Big Oil was the original special interest meddling in Canadian affairs,” says Donald Gutstein, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Big Stall: How Big Oil and the Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change. “From the very beginning, Canada’s oil and the tarsands were an American affair, financed by American capital to provide petroleum for the American market. Canadians and the environment be damned. Now Canadians, environmentalists and First Nations are saying ‘enough.'”

Let’s be clear: enormous amounts of money are being spent in the global battle to lobby governments and sway public opinion on climate change in the roughly dozen years we have left — according to the UN’s panel of climate experts — before it’s too late to stop the world’s descent into climate hell.

But the vast majority of this money — by a margin of about 10 to 1 — is spent by the fossil fuel industry, according to research by Drexel University’s Robert Brulle. MORE