Blue is the New Black: Five ways Big Oil is working to elect Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives and block action on climate change
Climate change is shaping up to be a top ballot issue for Canadians in the 2019 federal election. But Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are working hand in hand with the oil and gas industry to elect a Conservative government that would decimate action on climate change, weaken environmental protections, expand oil and gas production and infrastructure, and use government resources to target community organizations and Indigenous groups trying to protect the land, water and climate.
Here’s a short list of five ways Big Oil is colluding with Scheer to mislead Canadians and elect a Conservative government that would make the climate crisis worse to boost corporate profits.
1. Secret election strategy meetings between oil executives and the Conservative Party
On April 11th, a pro-oil advocacy group called the Modern Miracle Network organized a day-long conference at an Alberta luxury hotel that included the CEOs of several oil and gas companies, the president of industry lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), and the CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.
The meeting included a session on how to sue environmental groups to silence critics of the oil industry, a discussion on how to “rally the base” using pro-oil front groups, and a panel called “paths to federal election victory” that was introduced by CAPP’s president.
The keynote speaker at the conference: none other than Andrew Scheer himself.
When questioned about the secret strategy session between Conservatives and oil executives, Scheer offered no apologies.
Other high-profile Conservatives also attended and spoke at the conference, including Scheer’s national campaign director and former Rebel Media director Hamish Marshall, veteran Conservative operative Mark Spiro, and Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton. The conference also featured Republican political operative Mike Roman, who worked as a special assistant to Donald Trump and as an attack dog for Charles and David Koch..
When questioned by reporters about the conference, organizer Michael Binnion, CEO of Questerre Energy and a member of CAPP’s Board of Governors, said that the Modern Miracle Network held similar events across the country.
2. Special access to Scheer for oil executives at fundraising events
In Calgary in June, oil and gas executives helped organize a $1,600 per head fundraising event for the Conservative Party that featured Andrew Scheer.
Documents filed with Elections Canada show attendees included some of the same industry players as the April strategy meeting, as well as Calgary-based oil and gas financiers and industry board members, right-wing operatives with ties to Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party leadership campaign, former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and members of CAPP’s Board of Directors.
Meanwhile, a charitable event at Ottawa’s luxury Chateau Laurier hotel in May coincidentally had Scheer seated next to Rich Kruger, the CEO of Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest fossil fuel companies. Imperial was one of just three “platinum” sponsors of the event, which cost the company at least $50,000. According to event organizers, Scheer was moved to a seat beside Kruger just 48 hours prior to the event. Scheer’s wife just happens to be on the committee that put on the gala.
Scheer admits to speaking with Kruger about energy policy during the event. While regular Canadians deal with floods, wildfires, and extreme weather caused by climate change, oil executives are forking out $50,000 to get one-on-one facetime with the leader of the Conservative Party.
3. Conservative “climate plan” is an oil industry wish list
In June, Scheer released the Conservative Party’s “climate plan”, A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment. The Conservative plan was widely ridiculed by just about anyone who is serious about tackling the climate crisis.
Energy think tank Clean Prosperity called Scheer’s plan “like trying to build a house without a hammer.” Climate Action Network Canada says “this is not a plan to cut climate pollution… this is a plan to somehow save the world by increasing Canada’s climate emissions.” Andrew Leach, a University of Alberta economist, calls the plan “cloaked in mystery and choked with irony” that “offers more questions than answers,” and suggests Scheer is not even interested in implementing it. Simon Fraser University professor of sustainable energy Mark Jaccard calculates that Scheer’s plan would not only roll back existing measures to reduce emissions, but would actually increase Canada’s emissions.
Why is Scheer’s climate plan so weak? Because it’s virtually a wish list written by the oil industry’s lobby group, CAPP.
Just two weeks before the release of Scheer’s plan, CAPP released a 2019 Federal Energy Platform. It proposes a significant expansion of oil and gas production and infrastructure; an increase in public subsidies for oil and gas companies; and the scrapping of climate regulations to improve the carbon content of fuels, reduce dangerous emissions of methane from oil and gas wells, and laws to protect endangered species; among other changes that would create climate chaos.
Environmental groups called on all federal parties to reject CAPP’s proposals. Scheer’s Conservatives decided to dress CAPP’s platform up in a glossy 60-page document and call it a climate plan. Scheer also pledges to repeal Bill C-69, legislation that would improve the regulatory process for energy and industrial projects like pipelines; repeal Bill C-48, which bans oil tankers from traversing British Columbia’s iconic North Coast; and cancel the federal carbon tax and Clean Fuel Standard, two key elements of Canada’s plan to reduce carbon pollution.
CAPP has made Scheer’s Conservatives the main vehicle for advancing its climate-wrecking agenda.
4. Oil and gas interests are pouring money into election advertising
The collusion between Scheer’s Conservatives and Big Oil sounds cartoonishly evil, but it’s no joke. Oil and gas lobbyists and front groups have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising to influence the 2019 election. New Elections Canada rules allow third parties to spend up to $1 million in the pre-writ period and up to $500,000 during the election campaign.
This summer, three of Canada’s biggest oilsands producers, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., and MEG Energy Corp. took out 30 full-page newspaper ads asking Canadians to “lend their support to the energy industry.” For the first time in an election, CAPP registered as a third party advertiser. As of September 18th , CAPP had spent around $24,000 on Facebook ads. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canada’s main lobby group for oil and gas pipelines, spent nearly $145,000 on Facebook ads promoting pipelines. And Canada’s Energy Citizens, a pro-oil astroturf group run by CAPP, spent over $33,000 on Facebook ads.
The barrage of advertising by the oil and gas industry is unprecedented and also occurred recently at the provincial level. In the lead-up to the 2018 Ontario election, CAPP targeted 13 Ontario swing ridings with 400,000 mailers and billboards touting a pro-pipeline message. Greenpeace and Democracy Watch accused CAPP and Canada’s Energy Citizens of advertising on pipelines to influence the outcome of the Ontario election without registering as a third-party advertiser.
During the April 2019 Alberta election, oil and gas companies and executives poured at least $348,000 into front groups that waged advertising campaigns to defeat the provincial NDP and elect Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party. Meanwhile, CAPP released a set of provincial policy recommendations to remove regulations affecting the oil and gas industry and expand oil and gas exploration, transportation and production. CAPP then congratulated Kenney when he won the Alberta election and promised to work with the Alberta government to fulfill its wish list.
These massive advertising campaigns suggest Canadians should be prepared for a deluge of propaganda from oil and gas lobbyists and front groups that’s designed to elect Conservatives in the 2019 election.
5. Scheer is perpetuating conspiracy theories about environmental groups
A dangerous conspiracy theory is being advanced by right-wing political parties and their oil and gas industry backers. Andrew Scheer has bought into this conspiracy theory—hook, line and sinker.
Oil and gas executives claim that Canadian environmental organizations are “foreign-funded radicals” that have been financed by American corporate interests to block pipelines and stop the expansion of oil and gas production, all part of a nefarious plot to enrich American oil producers.
The theory is ridiculous, and has been thoroughly debunked—here and here, for example. But that hasn’t stopped Conservative politicians from latching onto the theory and using it to advance their pro-oil priorities.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney has dedicated $30 million of taxpayer money to create a “war room” to harass environmental organizations, spout industry propaganda, and silence critics of the oilsands. This follows from a tactic used by the former Harper federal government to use the Canada Revenue Agency to target environmental charities with audits if they worked to stop pipelines or promote ambitious climate policy. The audits had the effect of burdening environmental groups with endless paperwork and forcing them to censor their critiques of Canada’s oil and gas industry and climate policies.
The Trudeau government has since changed the law to clarify that charities can speak out on environmental policy issues, but the threat to environmental groups remains, as evidenced by Premier Kenney’s war room.
Unfortunately, Andrew Scheer has bought into the “foreign-funded radicals” theory, suggesting that he would ban environmental groups from participating in the regulatory review of energy and industrial projects. This would crimp a key source of organized opposition to oil and gas expansion, something strongly supported by CAPP.