Kory Teneycke

Fri, 2012-01-20 10:41Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Friends with Benefits: The Harper Government, EthicalOil.org and Sun Media Connection

Just over a week before the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings began, EthicalOil.org and its allies launched a pre-emptive PR offensive on environmental and First Nations groups who oppose the pipeline. Their new website, OurDecision.ca, and ad campaign are an attempt to invalidate opposition to the pipeline by pointing to the small amount of American funding going to some environmental groups, and claiming that pipeline opponents are actually the “puppets” of “foreign interests.”

Sun News was first to promote the campaign, and by the end of the week, numerous papers across Canada were repeating the story. After mentioning last November that “significant American interests” would line up against the pipeline, Stephen Harper eagerly picked up where he left off, touting EthicalOil.org's cause, decrying the foreign influence attempting to “overload” the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Review. By Monday, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver had penned a letter to Canadians denouncing the foreign interests trying to “hijack” the review process “to achieve their radical ideological agenda”. The same ominous tone and divisive talking points were parroted over and over by EthicalOil.org, Harper, Oliver and the credulous media, driving an entire week of news coverage.  

The OurDecision.ca campaign was timed to hit national news just as many Canadians were tuning into this issue for the first time, and this frame (“foreign interests” vs. a “Canadian decision”) could have a lasting impact on how people view one of the most important debates in a generation. 

So how did a small industry front group with secretive funding sources manage to have so much impact on the national conversation? Well, it looks like the Harper government, EthicalOil.org, and Sun Media have coordinated with one another to create an echo chamber that turns industry talking points into national news. We'll show how one digital communications company intimately connects EthicalOil.org, the Harper Government and Sun Media.

Sun, 2011-12-04 13:39Guest
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The twisted logic, and ethics, of nature's opponents

By David Suzuki (originally published on the David Suzuki Foundation website)

Who is influencing Canada's resource priorities? In a puzzling appeal to anti-American sentiment, some industry supporters claim that U.S. foundations are threatening Canadian policy by donating money to environmental groups here. These arguments have appeared in publications such as the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald, and on Sun TV.

Greenpeace has released research that points in a different direction, one that seems more logical. The Greenpeace report, “Who's Holding Us Back?”, shows that multinational and U.S. corporations in the oil, mining, and chemical sectors, among others, have been spending money and using industry trade associations, think-tanks, lobbying, and revolving doors between government and industry to block action on climate change and influence resource policy in Canada and elsewhere.

Opponents of environmental initiatives point to recent protests against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to B.C.'s north coast. They say this opposition is part of a conspiracy by U.S. funders to ensure that oil keeps flowing to the U.S. and not to Asia. That the same people also oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would take bitumen from the tar sands to the U.S., doesn't faze those who promote this twisted logic.

If these conspiracy theorists were truly upset about U.S. influence on Canadian infrastructure and resource development, they would lobby for greater national control of the oil industry, much of which is owned by U.S. and Chinese corporations. They might also question U.S. industry and foundation funding for organizations such as Canada's right-wing Fraser Institute, which has the same charitable status as the David Suzuki Foundation and other conservation groups and is thus governed by the same rules.

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