New report reveals the pervasive influence of big foreign oil in Canadian politics

December 8, 2021

Ottawa – A new report by the Council of Canadians and the BC and Saskatchewan offices of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives exposes the far-reaching power of large multinational foreign oil companies in shaping climate and energy policy in Canada.

The report, Posing as Canadians: How Big Foreign Oil captures Canadian energy and climate policy, shows that the chief advocate for these foreign corporations is the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the country’s most powerful oil and gas lobby.

While CAPP claims to champion Canadian interests, it is heavily dominated by Big Foreign Oil. Researcher Gordon Laxer found that of the 48 corporations on CAPP’s 2020 board, 37 (or 77 per cent) were confirmed, or likely, fully or majority foreign-owned. Through CAPP, these foreign multinationals influence our federal and provincial elections, make financial contributions to political parties and candidates, lobby governments, and mobilize so-called ‘grassroots’ groups to further their interests.

“Canadians expect that policies enacted in their name are shaped by them, not by wealthy foreign corporations. That is the essence of a healthy democracy,” says Ravi Joshi, Co-Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “At a time when people in the country are consistently ranking the climate crisis as a top issue of concern, we need our governments to be listening to us, not extractive corporations.”

“Oil and gas production is the biggest source of carbon pollution in Canada. But in large part because of Big Foreign Oil’s influence, our governments have been slow to adopt policies that get us off fossil fuels and help move oil workers and their communities towards a more economically vibrant future,” Joshi says.
Canada has the worst climate record of all G7 nations and the highest emission growth since the Paris Agreement was signed.  

The report details how foreign-owned oil corporations circumvent Canadians laws about foreign influence in elections, including by exploiting a loophole that allows companies with Canadian headquarters to register as third-party advertisers. The findings cast a new light on the recent Alberta inquiry into sources of foreign funding.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • The overwhelming majority – about 97 per cent – of the oil produced by corporations on CAPP’s board came from fully or majority foreign-owned corporations. Majority Canadian-owned corporations were responsible for less than three per cent.
  • While CAPP does not disclose its budget, about 97 per cent of it must come from its foreign-owned corporate members because its membership fees are based on oil production.
  • The executives of oil corporations on CAPP’s board have used various techniques to circumvent bans on corporate political donations. They have made sizable contributions to (mainly conservative) federal and provincial politicians favourable to their agenda.
  • In Alberta, whether the Conservatives or NDP have held office, Big Foreign Oil has had great sway over policies. The province acts as chief champion of oil and gas corporations within Canada.