Foreign-funding for “No” vs “Pro” Conventional Energy in Canada

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Executive Summary

In their campaigns to address alleged human influences on global warming, many environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) in Canada have chosen to take actions that harm the Canadian economy – blocking necessary energy infrastructure, promoting increased reliance on expensive intermittent sources of electricity supply, urging the imposition of carbon taxes that raise the costs of everything for consumers, and constantly increasing regulations. They say “No” to hydrocarbon energy development. People need to know more about why these policies are being promoted and adopted, and who is influencing this. 

We can begin to understand more, if we answer three questions:

  • How large is the funding of environmental organizations in Canada, especially those that, in the name of addressing allegedly human-induced global warming, have harmed Canada’s resource economy?
  • How much of this funding comes from foreign sources?
  • How balanced is the debate between the adversarial positions? In other words, how does the funding of those who say “No” compare to the funding of non-governmental organizations that take positions in favour of resource development and especially those that are skeptical about claims of human-induced climate catastrophe?


Over the period from 2000 to 2017, the 18 largest ENGOs in Canada took in almost $6.8 billion in revenues, according to public records.


Many of them received large amounts of foreign funding, especially from the Moore Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation and the Bullitt Foundation. For example, the Moore foundation donated over $9.5 million to the David Suzuki Foundation alone.


While the Canadian petroleum industry is very large and spends billions of dollars in Canada, this says nothing about whether or how it influences public policy. Based on the registry of lobbying of the federal government, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is very active in lobbying the federal government about policies, laws and regulations that affect it. By checking this database, however, one can find little if any evidence that the petroleum industry has directly challenged the global warming catastrophe thesis. One will find ample evidence that the lobbying by the ENGOs more than matches the lobbying by the petroleum industry.


The oldest non-governmental organization in Canada that directly challenges the catastrophe thesis, is the Friends of Science Society, operating since 2002. We review, as a case in point, the claims of Ecojustice, who called for an inquiry into this group and said there are “deep pockets” supporting the Friends of Science. The annual revenues of this organization have been around $150,000 per year on average since 2011. Ecojustice, in contrast, has taken in more than $81 million in revenues since 2000, or about $4.8 million on average per year (based on available public records).


The public debate on the global warming and related energy issues (i.e. coal phase-out, renewables, pipelines) is being skewed by the preponderance of finance on one side of the issue. The charity status granted to many ENGOs that allows them to avoid income taxation while still carrying extensive political activity and lobbying is anomalous. This raises questions vis a vis Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate policy related to ‘net public benefit’ versus ‘public harm.’[1]


These ENGOs have the right in a democracy to lobby for their views, but why on the backs of taxpayers?

[1] “when benefit is proven, it must be weighed against any harm that may arise from the proposed activity and a net benefit must result”