Ezra Levant

Fri, 2012-01-20 10:41Emma Pullman
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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.

Wed, 2012-01-18 06:51Jim Hoggan
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Unaccountable Oil: Is Enbridge Already Polluting the Canadian (Political) Environment?

Henrik Lehnerer

If the pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. is content to cower behind a 20-something blog manager rather than acknowledge its role in the recent attack on the patriotism of Canadian environmentalists, what hope have we that the company would ever stand accountable for the accidents that will occur – inevitably – if Northern Gateway ever gets built?

That’s a rhetorical question, but a pressing one, given the environmental time-bomb that Enbridge proposes to lay out between the Canadian tar sands and the pristine B.C. coastline.

We actually don’t know for sure that Enbridge is behind the so-called Ethical Oil Institute, a phony grassroots organization that was established by Ezra Levant and run for most of its first year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s current Director of Planning, Alykhan Velshi. But you might come to your own conclusions by watching this clip or reading the transcript below.

It comes from an interview on the CBC show Power and Politics, in which the host, Evan Solomon, asks current EthicalOil.org manager Kathryn Marshall a question she just can’t bring herself to answer:

Fri, 2012-01-13 10:32Emma Pullman
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Cozy Ties: Astroturf 'Ethical Oil' and Conservative Alliance to Promote Tar Sands Expansion

As the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project Joint Review Panel begins hearing over 4,000 comments submitted by community members, First Nations, governments, and environmental groups, the tar sands front group EthicalOil.org has launched its latest PR offensive in support of the pipeline. OurDecision.ca, the new astroturf ad campaign, is another dirty PR attempt to undermine the real and growing grassroots opposition to Big Oil’s plans to ram through this destructive pipeline. 

The controversial Northern Gateway project is opposed by 70 First Nations and a majority of British Columbians, who fear the inevitable oil spills that will accompany tar sands expansion, and in particular the threat of offshore tanker accidents on BC’s coast.

Viewers of Ethical Oil’s disingenuous new ad campaign aren’t being told about the intricate web of industry influence peddlers behind the effort and their connections to the Harper government and oil interests. In the middle of this web is Hamish Marshall, a Conservative strategist deeply connected to oil interests as well as both the Conservatives and ultra-right wing Wildrose Alliance Party. In this case, the lines between politics and big business interests are so blurred, it is nearly impossible to distinguish them.

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.

Thu, 2011-10-27 06:55Emma Pullman
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Why Ethical Oil's Deceptive 'Women's Rights' Defense of Tar Sands is Insulting and Wrong

EthicalOil.org’s new spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall, authored an insulting piece this week on the Huffington Post titled “Care About Women's Rights? Support Ethical Oil”. Marshall’s piece is a response to the October 11 article by Maryam Adrangi at It’s Getting Hot In Here.  Adrangi argues that the underlying motive of the “ethical oil” campaign is to deflect negative attention from the tar sands, not to actually engage in a conversation about women’s liberation.

If women’s rights were of genuine concern to EthicalOil.org” writes Adrangi, “then there would be a conversation about the impacts that tar sands extraction has on women”.

You’ll notice that Marshall’s attempted rebuttal fails to actually address the substantive criticisms made in Adrangi’s piece - Marshall never mentions the impacts of Alberta’s tar sands development on women, but instead repeats the same arguments and general hand-waving that sparked Adrangi’s criticism of EthicalOil.org's conservative pundits in the first place.

Marshall’s promotion of tar sands oil is framed around a central argument that if we care about women’s rights then we must support tar sands expansion, and by extension the Keystone XL pipeline, because Canadian women fare far better than women in petrocracies, such as Saudi Arabia.  But Marshall’s argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for three major reasons.

Tue, 2011-09-20 14:23Emma Pullman
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Saudi Arabia and Ethical Oil Group Go Head to Head Over Ads

The controversial Ethical Oil adswhich enjoyed an exclusive run on the Oprah Winfrey Network at the end of August, have earned a new enemy: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The tar sands industry ad campaign, which criticizes our reliance on oil imports from Saudi Arabia due to its poor human rights record, tells viewers that choosing between women’s rights and tar sands expansion is “a choice we must make”. 

The ads argue instead that intensifying tar sands production will actually help liberate women from oppressive petrocracies like Saudi Arabia. They also imply that we must support the controversial Keystone XL pipeline because it will decrease our reliance on “conflict oil”. 

According to the ads, “We bankrolled a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn't allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission and a state where a woman’s testimony only accounts for half of a man’s”. 

A female voice pleads to the viewer, “Why are we paying their bills and funding their oppression?”

The ad has angered Saudi Arabia, who in response sent a cease and desist letter to Telecaster Services from the Television Bureau of Canada, demanding approval for the ads be withdrawn. 

Wed, 2011-09-07 07:15Emma Pullman
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Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey on 'Ethical Oil' Ads

Dear Oprah,

I just don't know where to begin. 

I can't find my words because I respect you so much. You're a woman pioneer who has done much to advance the status of women globally. You've donated millions of dollars to various organizations, and have used your talk show to raise the profile of women's issues. Your philanthropy has funded projects like The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, and Women for Women International. You've also used your celebrity to raise awareness of environmental causes, notably the efforts to rebuild the Gulf. 

That's why I'm so stumped right now by your choice to feature ads from EthicalOil.org on your television network. 

I'm all about the work that you do, but the logic of promoting tar sands oil by appealing to our desire for women's liberation, our desire to help protect women in despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia, is deeply flawed and misguided. 

Mon, 2011-04-25 07:25Richard Littlemore
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Sun TV (aka Fox North): No Goths; only vandals

Full disclosure: I have not actually spent any time watching the new Sun TV channel, which promised in its debut last week to bring Fox News-style partisanship to the Canadian airwaves. But one of my favourite provocateurs sent me the Youtube link below to a skit in which Ethical Oil author Ezra Levant belligerently prunes a tiny cedar as an insult to “Saint Suzuki” and a Koran-burning-style assault on the sanctity of Earth Day.

Seriously. Mr. Tough Guy can’t even start his own chainsaw.

Regrettably, I have been unable to confirm the rumour that, for his next demonstration of man’s dominion over nature, Levant is going to buy a really pretty ficus - and not water it.

Mon, 2011-01-17 13:58Emma Pullman
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Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than “ethical oil”.  Since Ezra Levant’s 2010 book “Ethical Oil” hit the scene, it’s become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant’s book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant’s book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as “dirty” and “controversial” - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the art of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term “ethical oil” in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to spin the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren’t resonating with people. 

Thu, 2011-01-06 15:19Emma Pullman
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Minister of Environmental Destruction Says He Will Not Let Emissions Rules Hamper Tar Sands Development

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is off to a great start convincing Canadians that he is concerned about the environment.  After just than two days in office, he has already tried to persuade Canadians that Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil are “ethical oil” and unworthy of the negative reputation that countless citizens, politicians, and environmental organizations have given them.  Today, he’s promising that the Harper government will not impose any greenhouse gas reductions on the oil patch that will discourage investment. 

Curbing regulation in favour of profits doesn’t really sound like the work of the Minister of the Environment.  This suggests, rather troublingly, that the profits of the oil and gas sector, and in particular Alberta’s tar sands, are more important to the Harper government than their environmental impact.  Let’s get something clear: is Kent the Minister of Environment, or the Minister of Environmental Destruction? And who is he working for? Corporate interests, or Canadians?

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