Op-ed contributed by Michelle Stirling © 2019
On May 21, 2019, Andrew Nikiforuk wrote an article in The Tyee mocking Albertans and presenting his perspective on what he calls ‘false claims’ by Albertans about the situation we find ourselves in. Alberta has faced a decade long coordinated effort by anti-oil activists who have successfully enacted pipeline “Blockadia” in all directions. Investors have fled the province. The Bank of Canada Governor Steve Poloz is afraid of a ‘fire sale’ of ‘stranded carbon assets.’
Who stranded them? The Tar Sands Campaign and the powers behind it and similar climate change hysteria movements.
I say ‘hysteria’ because anyone who has been to Alberta has heard of Big Rock beer – and many have been to the Big Rock – Okotoks – one of the largest known glacial erratic in the world that was pushed by glacial movement 400 km south all the way from the mountain region where Jasper is today, to where it sits near the town of Okotoks, some 54 km south of Calgary.
The power of natural climate change is self-evident to Albertans, and especially the cadre of ~70,000 Professional Geologists and Geophysicists and Professional Engineers of APEGA who have made Western Canada a global SuperCluster in oil and oil sands.
Thousands of people work in the extended oil, gas and oil sands R&D, operations and supply chain-related industry in Canada.
So, maybe that’s why newly elected Premier Jason Kenney is vowing to call out a foreign-funded Tar Sands Campaign against the Alberta oil sands, and Alberta in general.
Kenney cites the findings of researcher Vivian Krause.
NIkiforuk mocks Vivian Krause for reporting on the land-locking of the Alberta oil sands (which he calls ‘tar sands’) by foreign-funded activists. At the outset of his article, he calls the notion of such a campaign against Alberta a “wild and silly conspiracy theory.”
And that’s rich. Let’s go down that rabbit hole with Nikiforuk and see where it leads.
The Tar Sands Campaign is well-documented in public records, specifically the Corporate Ethics International (CEI, now called CorpEthics) website where it has its own page. In the bio of team member Michael Marx, Senior Strategic Advisor, he notes that “Michael advised the International Tar Sands Oil Campaign, which included over 100 groups working in the U.S., Europe and Canada….” 
As noted in the Tar Sands Campaign document, the objective was to:
a) raise the negatives;
b) raise the costs of doing business;
c) slow-down infrastructure expansion;
d) enroll key decision-makers while isolating opponents.
If there was any question about the ultimate goal:
“The long-term goal of this campaign is to accelerate the shift in Canada and the U.S. towards clean energy and lower energy consumption. We believe this can be achieved through a combination of cap and trade legislation to internalize carbon costs, carbon taxes, large government investments in clean energy technology development, incentives for energy conservation, and rapid deceleration of deforestation. With regards to tar sands specifically, our long-term goal is to stop the production of this fuel. “
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the American use of the term ‘conspiracy’ refers to:
Indeed, until the work of researcher Vivian Krause and others like those reported on by Counterpunch (where the leaked Tar Sands Campaign document is posted), the project was a secret. It’s not clear what legalities might be involved, if any, but the #TarSandsCampaign was certainly against the wishes of Alberta’s workers and the Canadian supply chain to the oil sands, to the government of Alberta, to the oil sands developers, and to investors who have lost share value. And, it was bad. Bad because lots of people lost their jobs, some lost their investment, some lost their lives in despair. Bad because it didn’t stop global emissions anyway and despite trying to paint Canada as some kind of Boy Scout leader on climate change, we have no followers, just lots of competitors making hay while we stupidly trip ourselves up and slap ourselves in the face.
What makes Andrew Nikiforuk’s claim that this is a “wild and silly conspiracy theory” so curious is that there is so much evidence. It seems pretty clear that both the party behind the Tar Sands Campaign, the strategy document, many confirming pieces of evidence, and the outcomes show that the Tar Sands Campaign was originally secret, it was funded by foreign parties, it was enacted pretty much according to plan and by the parties referred to in the Tar Sands Campaign document, the funding and many of the specific activities are found in public records, and the Tar Sands Campaign has been largely successful!
This graph from the Alberta Economic Dashboard shows investment in Alberta has completely dived since 2014.
And look who came to the party!
Source: Raven 2010 annual report. Both Raven and Sierra Club have been funded by TIDES.
Greystone books and Andrew Nikiforuk have been funded by TIDES. David Suzuki Fund has reportedly been funded by foundations associated with the Tar Sands Campaign.
How is Andrew Nikiforuk a charitable cause? Funded by Tides Canada Initiatives for $36,446.00.
The Tyee and DeSmog also funded by Tides Canada Initiatives.
And who can forget “Canada’s Highway to Hell” of Sept. 1, 2007, written for NRDC ? Guess who wrote it?
Though Nikiforuk’s article works hard to make the case that no one in the world would ever want Alberta oil even if we could build a pipeline to get it to market, that is nonsense, as explained in this post debunking a similar take in Yahoo Finance of a few weeks ago; debunked by Robert Lyman, an Ottawa energy policy consultant who worked these files as a public servant for most of his 27 years. Aside from being a critic of the oil sands, why would anyone turn to Nikiforuk as an unbiased source of information on an industry in which he has little to no direct experience?
Nikiforuk’s May 21, 2019 article in The Tyee opens with this summary statement: “Alberta’s major exports these days seem to be piles of misinformation, denial, blame, and propaganda on the state-owned Trans Mountain pipeline.”
Really? Look in the mirror, sir. The truth can be painful.
And while you are at it, maybe read how misinformation is driving the alleged climate crisis that underlies these attacks on Alberta’s industry . “The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade” – written by French mathematicians.
Michelle Stirling is the Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, AAAS, and APA.