Conservative Party of Canada staffers are seen holding banners for a picture at a rally organized by partly organized by Canada’s Energy Citizens, in support of the Transmountain Expansion Pipeline, on May 23rd, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault
Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group ran a political ground war that targeted voters in 13 Ontario “Liberal swing ridings” with billboards in “high visibility locations” in the Toronto area and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature sent via Canada Post, an ongoing National Observer / Toronto Star / Global Newsinvestigation has found.
The details of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ campaign appear in a flyer distributed at a government-sponsored summit in Vaughan, near Toronto, where the association had a booth. The flyer explained how the lobby group had engaged in a “ground campaign in Ontario targeting 13 Liberal swing ridings” between April 8 to May 29 — the period in which the federal government was deciding on the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
CAPP’s campaign included 13 rallies across the country, billboards, a huge social media push and mailing hundreds of thousands of letters warning the public about their struggle to compete and gain access to new oil and gas markets, the flyer said. The Calgary-based group also sent 24,000 letters to “key decision makers” including B.C. Premier John Horgan, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal National Resources Minister Jim Carr, according to the leaked CAPP document.
The oilpatch lobby group declined to identify where the rallies took place and which ridings it targeted, but its branding and logos appeared at multiple rallies across the country last spring, including at least one rally featuring Conservative MPs in Ottawa. CAPP said that it promoted this Ottawa rally, held on May 23, but didn’t organize it.
The political implications of the campaign has prompted at least one political insider to call it “a warning shot” from one of Canada’s largest and most powerful lobby groups for the upcoming federal election.
‘I’ve never seen the oil industry lobby like this before’
Critics also say CAPP’s conspicuously-timed advertising – launched amid Ontario’s provincial election campaign and targeting 13 ridings in Ontario alone – is unprecedented and merits further review from the provincial elections watchdog.
The advertising material urges Canadians to “tell your federal MP to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline” alongside the message, “Is Canada closed for business?” MORE