Oil Wealth Transforms Canada

Writing in Foreign Policy, The Tyee's prolific environmental writer, Andrew Nikiforuk, blasts Canada for becoming a "rogue, reckless petrostate" due to its economic dependence on exporting oil. He holds Prime Minister Stephen Harper responsible.

2 minute read

June 27, 2013, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Andrew Nikiforuk, contributing editor to the Tyee, has become a thorn not only to his primary target, the Alberta oil sands industry, but to Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Here he targets Harper and his Conservative Party, showing how the government's dependence on the exploitation of "the world's third-largest petroleum reserves" has politically transformed what was once considered "America's friendly northern neighbor" into "a dystopian vision of the continent's energy-soaked future."

Since the Conservative Party won a majority in Parliament in 2011, the federal government has eviscerated conservationists, indigenous nations, European commissioners, and just about anyone opposing unfettered oil production as unpatriotic radicals. It has muzzled climate change scientists, killed funding for environmental science of every stripe, and in a recent pair of unprecedented omnibus bills, systematically dismantled the country's most significant long-cherished environmental laws.

Canada, the world's sixth largest oil producer, pumps 1.7 million barrels daily and hopes to increase it to 5 mbd by 2030. Due to the increased price of oil, mining the oil sands - which in inherently energy intensive due to the in situ process of extracting bitumen by burning natural gas to create steam, has become profitable and is projected to "fill provincial and federal government coffers with about $120 billion in rent and royalties by 2020. More than 40 percent of that haul goes directly to the federal government largely in the form of corporate taxes."

Nikiforuk's basic assertion is that not unlike other major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, the government is now dependent on exploiting its vast oil resources "(w)ith oil and gas now accounting for approximately a quarter of its export revenue".  Under Harper, "Ottawa has become a master at the cynical art of greenwashing", e.g. "his government has spent $100 million since 2009 on ads to convince Canadians that exporting this oil is "responsible resource development."

And it's working. "With nearly three-quarters of Canadians supporting oil sands development in a recent poll, Harper seems to be selling them on the idea." Oddly, Nikiforuk doesn't seem to want to win any converts, describing "Canadians as generally a fat and apathetic people."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 in Foreign Policy

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