The aftermath: Foxes defend guarding the henhouse

Shannon Daub

We recently shared the results of investigative research conducted through the Corporate Mapping Project. Our work demonstrated that the fossil fuel industry was invited to shape both the substance and language of BC’s so-called Climate Leadership Plan during a series of closed-door meetings that took place in Calgary in the boardroom of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Today, I’m writing to tell you about what happened after we made those findings public, and to share with you more of the latest news from the Corporate Mapping Project—including important work on Saskatchewan’s oil industry, and a new article reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the oil sands.

The aftermath: Foxes defend guarding the henhouse


To say the mainstream media picked up the story…would be an understatement. Our research was covered extensively (see links below); I spent the week of the release in and out of interviews. The analysis was also shared far and wide on social media, reaching over 100,000 people—and I’m so grateful to those of you who spread the word. We’re also grateful to, which co-published our report, and to the National Observer, which covered it extensively.

Former Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman (whose senior staff worked with CAPP to organize the meetings) defended his government’s actions. He said the meetings with the petroleum industry were not intended to be secretive—but offered no explanation as to why they were never made public. Both Coleman and CAPP claimed such “consultation” with industry is normal.

Hm. Sitting down in secret with some of your top political donors and inviting them to shape the very policies that ought to constrain their activities is not consultation. It’s institutional corruption. And if it’s true that such influence is normal, then BC has a lot of work to do if we are going to reclaim our democracy from the fossil fuel industry’s grip. The ban on corporate and union donations recently introduced by the provincial government is an excellent start—but much more is needed. You’ll hear more from us on this soon.

“They hid information on toxic gas”: New series reveals the dangerous side of oil


You may already have seen this headline. Last week, the Toronto Star, National Observer and Global Television began publishing stories from a major investigation into the dangers and impacts of Saskatchewan’s oil industry.

The investigation reveals five years of industry violations and government secrecy related to leaks of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas (or sour gas). Instead of properly monitoring and enforcing its own regulations, the government encouraged a culture of silence, and invested its time and resources in defending the industry at all costs.

These and other findings were uncovered through an unprecedented national collaboration between the National Observer, The Toronto Star, Global News, the Michener Awards Foundation, the Corporate Mapping Project and four university journalism schools. The project was led by Patti Sonntag of Concordia University together with Patricia Elliot from the University of Regina—both co-investigators with the CMP. The focus was inspired by Dr. Emily Eaton’s research into the Saskatchewan oil industry (Emily is also a key member of the CMP team).

Read the first articles in of The Price of Oil series via the National Observer, check out this excellent article in the Toronto Star, or watch this feature from Global News.

Climate change denial, censorship and secrecy


Despite the adverse impacts—both health and environmental—of Saskatchewan’s oil industry, a culture of denial pervades the province’s oil-producing regions.

This is what Emily Eaton found when conducting research for her newly released report, Climate Politics in the Patch, which investigates how people living in these communities understand climate change, environmentalism, resource nationalism and the role of regulators.

The study finds that people in Saskatchewan—particularly the southeast—view climate change mitigation policies as driven by Eastern politicians and urban environmentalists at the expense of industry and their communities. While interviewees did share stories of the oil industry’s negative impacts and tendency toward censorship and secrecy, they reported not wanting to speak for fear of being censured.

Emily argues these are grievances we must take seriously if we hope to push past the entrenched old divisions between East and West, urban and rural.

“Generalized talk about alternatives will remain threatening for oil-producing communities,” she writes. To meaningfully advance an alternative vision, we will need to break down the culture of silence and address specific, local-level concerns.

50 years of Alberta oil sands

And that’s not all the Corporate Mapping Project has been up to. I also want to share a great post by the Parkland Institute’s Ian Hussey discussing five things to consider as we mark the 50th anniversary of large-scale oil sands extraction—which officially began in Fort McMurray, Alberta on September 30, 1967.

Alberta and Canada need to begin the transition away from the oil economy—by developing policies that respect Indigenous rights and title, cleaning up polluted lands, and meaningfully involving on oil and gas workers who deserve secure and sustainable work.

And stay tuned—there’s much more to come.

Shannon Daub
CCPA-BC Associate Director
Corporate Mapping Project Co-Director

P.S. Here’s a sample of the coverage of our work on big oil’s influence on BC’s Climate Plan:

Vancouver Sun: Documents hint at petroleum industry influence CTV News: BC's climate plan written in oil industry boardroom: documents  National Post: B.C. asked oil, gas industry to 'refine' climate plan recommendations
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