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Bitumen Cliff

Bitumen Development Poses Critical Challenges for Canada

Bitumen Development Poses Critical Challenges for Canada

February 21, 2013

OTTAWA—A failure to carefully regulate the Canadian bitumen industry is putting Canada on a dangerous economic and environmental trajectory, says a new report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Polaris Institute.

The study’s original, integrated analysis shows that the current bitumen path is creating the double threat: a “staples trap,” whereby the faster Canada exports its bitumen, the less diversified, productive and resilient the economy becomes;” and a “carbon trap,” which locks Canada into an carbon dependent development path, making the costs of future climate adaptation much more difficult.

“Canada’s current bitumen strategy is not only damaging to the environment, but is leaving our economy highly vulnerable to shrinking markets for bitumen, as the world moves to less polluting fuels,” says Tony Clarke, co-author of the report, pointing out that export prices for Canadian bitumen (like natural gas before it) are already falling due to evolving market conditions.

“Another consequence is an unbalanced and vulnerable boom-bust economy where production is increasingly concentrated in unprocessed products; where manufacturing and other tradeable industries contract; and where production and employment shift to non-tradeable industries, damaging Canada’s productivity and wellbeing,” says co-author Jim Stanford.

The study presents a wealth of empirical data indicating the negative side-effects of unregulated bitumen developments for Canada’s trade, exchange rate, productivity, and income distribution performance and proposes a two-track approach to steer away from the “bitumen cliff:”

[1] regulate more tightly the bitumen industry to slow the pace of extraction, enhance Canadian content in upstream and downstream activities, and attain a better balance between sectors and regions of the economy; and

[2] reorient Canada’s economy around more balanced, innovative, and low-carbon industries.

“We need to encourage a different way of thinking on the part of policy-makers and Canadians generally, and steer a course that is consistent with the our nation’s long term economic and environmental interests,” Clarke says.

“We must overcome the false polarization between the economy and environment, and recognize that the future course of these enormous developments cannot be left to a largely deregulated market and the self-interested choices of private industry,” says Stanford.


The Bitumen Cliff: Lessons and Challenges of Bitumen Mega-Developments for Canada’s Economy in an Age of Climate Change, by Tony Clarke (Executive Director, Polaris Institute), Jim Stanford (Economist, Canadian Auto Workers), Diana Gibson (former Director of Research, Parkland Institute in Alberta), and Brendan Haley (Ph. D. candidate, Carleton University) is available on the CCPA website:

And on the Polaris Institute web site:

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306 or 613-266-9491.

World Social Forum Climate Space Declaration: To Reclaim Our Future, We Must Change the Present

This declaration comes as a result of the activities of the Climate Space at the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunis, Tunisia. The Polaris Institute co-organized two of the 14 Climate Space workshops and was one of the 20 facilitators.

The Climate Space inside the World Social Forum 2013 in Tunisia was organized as a space to discuss the causes, impacts, struggles, alternatives and strategies to address climate change.

The Declaration:

To Reclaim Our Future, We Must Change the Present. Our Proposal for Changing the System and not the Climate

Big Oil’s Oily Grasp

Canada as a Petro-State

Report highlights Canada as a Petro-State

December 4, 2012 Ottawa – A new report entitled “Big Oil’s Oily Grasp - The making of Canada as a Petro-State and how oil money is corrupting Canadian politics” released today by the Ottawa-based Polaris Institute found that six main oil industry players, including Enbridge and TransCanada, met with federal cabinet ministers 53 times between September 2011 and September 2012, the period when the business-friendly Bill C-38 – which guts environmental legislation - was being designed. During this same time period, only one meeting between a federal cabinet minister and an environmental organization took place (Greenpeace met with Joe Oliver in March, 2012).

In addition, the report shows how the two main fossil fuel industry associations have met with public office holders 367% more times than the two major Canadian automotive industry associations and 78% more times than both major mining industry associations since 2008.

“The amount of face time the oil industry gets in Ottawa in personal meetings and other correspondence greatly exceeds the time afforded other major industries in Canada,” says report co-author Daniel Cayley-Daoust. “No one doubts the hold the oil industry has on this current government, but it is important Canadians are aware that such a high rate of lobbying to federal ministers has strong policy implications.”

The report highlights significant jumps in lobbying activity by the oil industry between 2010 and 2011, in particular from the pipeline industry. In that same time period, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association recorded 71% more meetings with public office holders while TransCanada Corporation and Enbridge increased by 49% and 44% respectively. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) increased its lobbying activities by 121%. These increases occurred during the same time as the industry sought approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

“Prime Minister Harper and his top ministers have spent hundreds of hours over the past few years listening to oil executives outline their policy wishes,” said Richard Girard, lead researcher of the Polaris Institute and co-author of the report. “We call for a full independent public inquiry to investigate the influence the oil industry is having on the Harper government through lobbying.”

He added there are major loopholes in the Government of Canada’s Lobbying Act that block the possibility of quantifying with certainty the amount of access the oil industry has on our elected officials and civil servants. In the United States, in contrast, there is much more transparency because lobbyists like oil companies must declare the amount of money spent on lobbying.

The lobbying data used in the report was compiled from the Registry of Lobbyists located on the website of Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.


To read the report, please go to'sOilyGrasp_0.pdf
For more information, please contact:
Richard Girard, 613 237-1717 ext 105
Daniel Cayley-Daoust, 819 593-4579