Major new SSHRC grant to examine fossil fuel industry in Western Canada

November 12, 2015

(Vancouver) Who is behind the wheel of fossil fuel extraction in Western Canada and what influence do they wield? These are the central questions driving a six-year research and public engagement initiative, Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector, funded by a $2.5 million partnership grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The initiative brings together researchers, civil society organizations, and Indigenous participants to study the oil, gas and coal industries in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The partnership is jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (BC and Saskatchewan offices) and the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta, and is hosted by UVic. In addition to the SSHRC award, the project is supported by $2 million in matching contributions from the partners.

“We’ve seen a rapid acceleration of fossil fuel extraction in recent years,” says Dr. Bill Carroll, UVic professor of sociology and co-director of the partnership. “Yet our knowledge of the companies involved and how they influence decision-making about our publicly owned carbon resources is remarkably sparse.”

“Our research will help Canadians gain a clearer picture of who’s who in this increasingly important sector of Canada’s economy,” says Shannon Daub, who co-directs the partnership on behalf of CCPA-BC.

The partnership’s work will focus in four key areas:

  • A systematic mapping of how the carbon-extractive industry is organized — which companies are involved, who runs them, who owns them, and how they connect to broader international corporate networks.
  • Analysis of the sector’s influence on public debates and policy making — such as efforts to secure social license, and corporate links to governments, political parties, lobby groups and private foundations.
  • Case studies of contentious “flashpoints”—such as the expansion or development of new mines, pipelines, oil fields or export facilities.
  • Development of an open source, publicly accessible corporate database — along with a training program for citizens and civil society groups, many of whom will contribute and update data.

“We are at a climate crossroads,” says Trevor Harrison, director of the Parkland Institute. “The decisions we make today about what to do with our remaining oil and gas resources will have consequences for generations to come.” Adds Simon Enoch, director of the CCPA’s Saskatchewan Office, “It is vital that we make these decisions democratically – and that requires transparency and a level playing field.”

SSHRC Partnership Grants support formal partnerships between universities and other partners to improve understanding of critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and cultural significance.

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Media contacts:

William Carroll (UVic Dept. of Sociology) at 250 592 3715

Shannon Daub (CCPA-BC): 604-801-5121 x226

Trevor Harrison (Parkland Institute): 403-327-5041

Simon Enoch (CCPA-SK): 306-586-5177

Anne MacLaurin (UVic Social Sciences Communications) at 250-217-4259

For a complete list of the project's team members and partners, click here.

For a more detailed project summary, click here.