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Canadian fossil fuel industry exerts 'consistent and steady' pressure on government: report

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007. Statistis Canada says real gross domestic product was essentially unchanged in July. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

11,452 lobbying contacts were recorded with Canadian government officials over eight years, that works out to six a day.

The study says industry is ramping up lobbying in the face of increasing pressure to take action on climate crisis.

The fossil fuel industry was one of the most active in lobbying the federal government between 2011 and 2018, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

Over the seven years, 11,452 lobbying contacts were recorded with Canadian government officials. That works out to six contacts a day. While the study notes lobbying can work to serve the public, it argues the fossil fuel industry has financial resources that give it an advantage using the current system.

Executive director for Environmental Defence Tim Gray says we’ve seen lobbying by the fossil fuel company impact legislation, like Bill C-69 which was passed in June.

The bill changed how major projects, like pipelines, are assessed and approved by the federal government.

“The intense lobbying at the Senate resulted in amendments [to the bill] being brought forward that directly paralleled those being brought forward by the fossil fuel industry. We saw the bill significantly weaken from what it used to be,” he explains, adding they have a strong track record for being effective lobbyists.

Gray says the industry is ramping up their lobbying efforts in the face of increasing pressure to take action on climate change.

“I think the industry overall feels that on a global scale that they have a short time to convince people and convince government to stop moving forward on climate change and instead change direction,” he explains. “You can see the oil industry becoming more and more aggressive both in its public messaging and its presence on Parliament Hill. The mission statements they were trying to get political parties to adopt last election were quite extreme.”

He estimates there would have been a 60 per cent increase in Canada’s emissions if the industry-influenced mission statements were adopted.

The CCPA report notes the study coincides with a period in which the climate crisis change became an “urgent threat.”

“In this time of climate crisis, transitioning away from fossil fuels in a rapid, democratic and socially just manner is required. If we do not acknowledge and address the influence that the fossil fuel industry holds over government policy, we will not be able to take the steps necessary to adequately address the crisis with the urgency it requires.”

Gray argues fossil fuel companies have already changed the tide on climate change in the U.S. under the Trump administration and worries Canada is heading in a similar direction.

“They’ve had some success. We’ve seen a significant rollback of proposed legislation regulation that would impact the industry.”