Tar Sands Oil Companies 71 Percent Foreign-Owned - Cue Ezra Levant's Outrage

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ForestEthics Advocacy released a game-changing research brief today documenting the massive foreign control of Alberta's tar sands oil industry. Publicly traded oil companies with active tar sands operations have a very high level of foreign ownership – 71 per cent.

Some supposedly “Canadian” oil companies including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil and Husky are predominantly owned by foreign interests. More than half of Canada’s oil and gas revenue goes to companies under foreign control.

This revelation stands in stark contrast to the talking points of the Harper administration and its media echo chamber, which insist that there is too much foreign influence over Canada's resource decisions from environmental groups. In fact, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that foreign interests are influencing tar sands and other resource decisions - chiefly Chinese and other foreign oil companies. 

Cue Ezra Levant's outrage at this foreign influence in Canadian interests! Where's Vivian Krause when you need her? Surely the Ethical Oil Institute will agree that this level of foreign intervention is a dangerous threat to Canada's future

Recall that when the Ethical Oil Institute launched its allegedly “100% Canadian” OurDecision.ca website, this was the statement by spokesperson Kathryn Marshall:  “We’ll never take foreign money to undermine our country’s national interests.” 

The group admits that it receives funding from companies active in the tar sands. Now that it's been revealed that all these companies are predominently foreign-owned, the group's claims to be 100% Canadian are highly misleading. We await their statement correcting the record.

Anticipating that someone, perhaps from the 'ethical oil' team, will quickly attempt to do damage control by claiming that this is just some ginned up report by ForestEthics, let's be crystal clear that the data underlying the report are all from independent sources including Bloomberg Professional and industry journals. 

The ForestEthics Advocacy brief concludes:

“The Conservative Harper government is increasingly ruling in favour of foreign-oil companies instead of Canadians. We need foreign investment and shareholders in this country, but it does not need to be at the cost of democracy, our environment, and future generations.”

Read the full Forest Ethics Advocacy brief [PDF]: Who Benefits? An Investigation of Foreign Investment in The Tar Sands

Update: Rick Mercer's takedown of this “foreign-owned” nationalism talking point is increasingly accurate with every passing day. (H/T AnOilMan).

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The earliest clues I had to this were via Leila Yuile’s excellent essay.. Playing With The Dragon. Will any steadfast Canadian politician step forward.. now .. and corraborate or verify that this is true? Or will any Canadian economist worth his or her salt step forward and having examined ‘the books’ confirm this is all true?

This goes far and away ahead of of F 35’s, the ‘In/Out’ or ProRogue Scandals.. This goes to the selling out of Canada’s resources and the ‘too damn bad if you’re in our way’ bums rush of The Harper Government towards any Canadians. I read the occasional frustrated braying of Joe Oliver, Peter Kent and the silence of Keith Ashfield as hired mercenary noyz from the corpocracy neverland of Rt Honorable Stephen Harper… the stark naked emperor of our red-faced Canada Eh .. 

“Where’s Vivian Krause?”

That’s what I keep asking…on this and other stories. Amazing how silent she is, eh?

Anyway, this isn’t news to anyone who works in the industry. And the names listed in the article are the largest and most well-known blue chip companies. Consider all the oil services companies and contractors that are foreigned owned as well, from trucking firms to downhole tool companies to fab shops, and office/accounting services. Heck, even the local mom & pop engineering firm in Calgary that I work for is foreign owned (UK).

This obsession with ‘foreign funding, agents and devils, etc’ is not only a red herring in the PR wars over tar sands, it’s a tribalistic relic. Perhaps this mindset is more rooted in conservative thinking? Where is Chris Mooney when you need him?  lol

We may very well know of each other in real life.  Do you do Wireline, Drilling, or field services?

(We’re small and we have offices in Calgary, UK, US, and China.)

Interesting observation about foreign funding, I think its to bring out that nationalist streak.  It just plain sounds bad to have that said in that context.  In fact, that is exactly how I counter it.  They get mad, get madder and louder and say the same things back.

The conservatives have been attempting to revive nationalism in Canada.  Trying to celebrate wars long won and all that.

I prefer the Rick Mercer version of all this;


By the way.. the usual counter arguments to this kind of information is that “these companies have our best interests at heart”. Formulate your responses accordingly.

To counter this… wave the American Flag.

I’m not trying to cause trouble with the following statements.

For those not familiar with Canada, we have a strong anti-American streak.  I’m not sure why, but we do have a lot of things that we like (Health Care) and they run counter to American values.  Canada also fears loosing its culture to American culture. (That’s why we have CBC.)

The Economist summed it (liek 10 years ago?) up by saying Canadians have to hate Americans otherwise there would be no reason for us to exist. We may as well join the US.

This is a Canadian Song… play it loud.  Most people don’t understand it and beleive it to be anti-American. (Its not…)



“We may very well know of each other in real life. Do you do Wireline, Drilling, or field services?”

Since being bought up by a large UK firm two years ago, our company has started designing small SAGD (<40,000 BBL) plants.

We don’t know each other.  (R&D Drilling\Wireline)

How do you reconcile being pro-climate change and working in oil and gas?

I personally don’t have an issue with it.

Well, I guess my answer is I can’t really reconcile them, so I don’t try.

On the one hand: Most jobs in AB are related to the oil & gas industry in some way, either directly (i.e. working for an actual oil company) or indirectly (e.g. working for a fast food restaurant that serves people who work for an oil company). Either way, one is supporting the industry. This is relatively difficult to avoid, especially in Calgary. Besides, since oil is in virtually everything, it’s difficult enough to avoid supporting the industry even without actually being employed directly by it.  I could go work on a fishing boat in BC, but then the boat uses oil, and there’s the whole other problem of the commercial fishing industry and its ecological burden. I could work for a solar tech company, but solar uses rare earth minerals, toxic chemicals and petroleum based materials in its construction. Similarly, for wind turbines, which kills birds, uses motors, etc.

On the other hand: I don’t drive or own a car. I live lightly and frugally, have few possesions, am a semi-vegetarian, don’t have kids or own a home (with all its attendant energy utilities). I don’t even have a bicycle (which uses rubber tires, metals, wires, etc), and I own very few things made of plastic.

So, I do the utmost I can, and what’s humanly possible  and still be able to function in soceity, without becoming homeless or living in a cave (if there are any caves left not owned by mining or mineral interests…lol).

The problem really is that our whole way of life (industrial civilization) is based on the use of carbon and thus implicated in global climate change. So it really doesn’t matter what job I do, I am contributing to the problem on some level, along with everyone else.  The answers to this go much deeper than changing one’s light bulbs or changing jobs. As long as I happen to work in the oil & gas sector, it at least provides me with an insider’s knowledge of the industry, which is a very useful position to be in when debating deniers and anti-environmentalists. It’s the kind of first-hand direct knowledge one can’t get from working for Greenpeace, say.  Of course, I do have to keep a low profile at the office. I can’t get into debates with colleagues, or display any kind of opionion that would give me away as an ‘activist’. This situation makes for a kind of double life. But then, that seems to be more or less true of any job.

Hence my inability to reconcile my ecological sensibilities with my employment.

(Besides, I think we lose sight of the real nature of the climate crisis when we engage in witch hunts for inconsistencies at the personal level).

Sorry for the long post.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, foreign ownership and the silliness of EtrhicalOil.org’s critiques of the funding sources of environmental groups in opposition to the Northern Gateway project.

Personally I don’t understand the thought that we must some how not participate in a society in order to try and make it a better place.

Just look at what happens.. If you’re a rich capitalist you’re not green so why listen (Al Gore).  If you’re an environmentalist who flies in airplanes you’re not green so why listen (David Suzuki).  If you’re truly outside of our society, you’re a flee bitten savage so why listen (every native band in Canada).

You can’t win.

I’m frugal but not that frugal.  I have a 1950’s bungalow in a very expensive neighborhood full of executives. My house is directly on the LRT tracks. I’m married and we have one car.  (My wife usually walks to work.)  I have an exceedingly low carbon foot print.  (I can’t afford to drop off the gas grid and go Geothermal.)

Interestingly I find inside knowledge helpful as well.  Desmogblog even writes articles based on my posts.


Most of my co workers are professional engineers and are liberal, and support and understand climate change.  (Management isn’t against climate change, but don’t really care…  I’m OK with that.  Its practically Green in Alberta.) But I do avoid the topic.  I tend to froth at the mouth when I see anti science misinformation.  Mostly I find it hard to distinguish between a denier and someone who is just completely misinformed.

I became ‘mobilized’ when a professional engineer (a card carrying conservative) told me that temperatures haven’t gone up in 10 years, and Kyoto didn’t include green house gasses.

By the way, your attitudes aren’t that unusual.  My neighbourhood is overwhelmingly Liberal and I’ll vote for David Swann till he quits, largely because of his stance on climate change.


One more thing, if we fail to address Climate Change, I will be stinking rich.  I really just want to make sure we have a better world for my children.

Good points, AnOilMan. It really is a no-win situation. I suspect though that the people who play the hypocrisy card are not usually interested in debate anyway. There are a couple of like-minded people at work who I can talk to, but for the most part I hear a lot of anti-Occupy and anti-environmental jokes, and one co-worker who claims to like to “beat up hippies.”

Anyway, I was hoping Brendan could provide a link for the statement: “The group [ethical oil]admits that it receives funding from companies active in the tar sands”.

Has this been confirmed?

I found a good critique of Vivian Krause here: