Op-ed contributed by Michelle Stirling © July 2019

On June 23, 2019, Markham Hislop did another deep dive interview on the Tar Sands Campaign, trying to demonstrate it is all a tin-foil hat conspiracy theory dreamt up by researcher Vivian Krause (@FairQuestions) .  He interviewed Joanna Kerr, new CEO of Tides Canada, who replaced Ross McMillan, who stepped down at the end of Dec. 2018.

Hislop asked Kerr if Tides Canada ever participated in the Tar Sands Campaign.  Kerr answered: “For the record, Tides Canada was never a member of the Tar Sands Campaign…”  and claims “In much of the rhetoric of Vivian Krause and her supporters, there is a conflation between Tides Canada and Tides Foundation in the US. We believe this is intentional.”

That answer does not jibe with the evidence.

Hislop asked if Tides Canada ever participated in the Tar Sands Campaign.  Kerr responds that Tides Canada was never a member of the campaign.

Kerr says that people confuse/conflate Tides Foundation in the US and Tides Canada.  However, reading this 2013 Counterpunch story (by a left-wing anti-oil, anti-capitalist fellow) entitled “How Tides Canada Controls the Secret North American Tar Sands Coalition”, one certainly gets the impression the author is speaking about Tides Canada, and not Tides Foundation in the US.

If Hislop was doing his job as a journalist, why didn’t he read this Vivian Krause article from the Financial Post of Oct. 14, 2010 to Joanna Kerr and ask her to pick out where Vivian has erred or conflated?

Surely the staff at Tides Canada could help with that. But he never presses Kerr on the claims of conflation, and never presents any of the following evidence to challenge her statements.

Tides Canada is not some little upstart. The Canada Revenue Agency lists Tides Canada Initiatives Society as being founded in 1990, with the Tides Canada Foundation established in 1999.

Hislop never challenges Kerr’s charming claim that Tides Canada was simply “inspired” by Tides Foundation in the USA, when the organizations also shared the same board and executive team for years, including listing US Tides founder Drummond Pike and board member Joel Solomon, even up to 2010.

As this excerpt from Tides Foundation 2010 US IRS-990 filing shows, Drummond Pike was also a board member of the US Tides Foundation as was Joel Solomon. Based upon CRA T-3010 and IRS-990s, the principals, Joel Solomon and Drummond Pike, have been the principal executives of both organizations and populated as executives on board of directors in what is known as inter-corporate linkage, a practice frowned upon in most business circles.

Source: https://www.canadiancharitylaw.ca/blog/tides_us_2010_form_990_-_an_example_of_transparency_in_action

If one reviews this version of the Tides_US_2010_Form_990 w highlights one finds numerous grants for the Tar Sands Campaign listed (highlighted in yellow, added).  It seems quite disingenuous to suggest that key people would be on one board in the US, administering Tar Sands Campaign funding and activities, but on another board for Tides Canada and could claim to be non-participants in what is going on. Indeed, Tides Canada is even listed as a charity with the IRS.

FORGN: “A foreign-addressed organization. These are generally organizations formed in the United States that conduct activities in foreign countries. Certain foreign organizations that receive charitable contributions deductible pursuant to treaty are also included, as are organizations created in U.S. possessions.”


In 2010, the Oak Foundation granted Tides Canada Foundation a paltry $50,000 grant, with the objective of creating a $30 million-dollar fund ‘similar to the Energy Foundation, ‘to be sourced from high net worth Canadian and international donors.’  The US “Energy Foundation” was a forerunner to ClimateWorks. Energy Foundation was a funding a distribution house where foundations with interests in promoting cap and trade, carbon pricing and renewables, could deposit funds into the umbrella organization (redeveloped as ClimateWorks) for non-duplicated distribution to ENGO proxies who would then beat the drum for local policy change while appearing to be a grassroots movement. This is described in ClimateWorks “Design to Win” strategic plan, found online.  Interestingly, ClimateWorks global cap and trade plan includes an Energy Foundation that they set up in China…but I digress.

Going back to Kerr’s claim that Tides Canada was never a member of the Tar Sands Campaign….or rather Hislop’s question if Tides Canada had ever participated in it, how would Kerr explain Tides Canada funding of author Andrew Nikiforuk – Mr. Anti-Tar Sands himself, or DeSmogBlog, or Tides Canada’s involvement in ForestEthics’ Blockadia of Northern Gateway? The following screenshots are from NEB filings on-line,( NEB File No.: OF‐Fac‐Oil‐N304‐2010‐01 01) a written request for information from Enbridge to ForestEthics, wherein ForestEthics is described as a Tides Canada Initiative, and Enbridge is seeking confirmation of ForestEthics role in the Tar Sands Campaign and funding.

Source: ForestEthics Advocacy Response to Northern Gateway Information …


Now in some cases, it would be unfair to expect a new CEO to know any of this history off the top of their head.

But Joanna Kerr is someone special. Kerr was the Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada for the past five years. Since 2007, when Greenpeace was funded by the Oak Foundation, it’s been clear what side of the fence they are on.

“To initiate three distinct but interrelated efforts concerning tar sands in Alberta to enhance the ability of Greenpeace Canada to more effectively launch and deliver its ‘Phase Out Tar Sands Campaign’; secondly to leverage the growing interest of ranchers and landowners in limiting unbridled oil and gas exploration and production in southern Alberta; and thirdly to conduct specialised opinion research and media work to identify messaging for these and other efforts that will generate maximum information value among Albertans.”

And to further connect the dots, Greenpeace contracted Andrew Nikiforuk in 2009 to write a report for them entitled: “Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis.”  That same year, through the auspices of Tides Canada fundee “RAVEN” (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), Nikiforuk went on a cross-Canada tour of anti-oil sands speaking events.

Source: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/alberta-tar-sands-a-major-climate-and-economic-threat-greenpeace-report-538570241.html 

RAVEN has been funded by Tides Canada. Greenpeace featured the tar sands on the cover of their 2009 annual report.

In 2011, numerous tar sands campaign fundees appeared in the CBC co-produced documentary “The Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands.” Indeed, the research papers contributed to PNAS by Schindler, coauthored with Kelly, that sparked the documentary were funded in part by Tides Foundation (US).



However, some of the impact on changing a favorable investment climate for the oil sands to a negative one was done by the Toronto Star in this Tides Canada funded series.

Source: https://tidescanada.org/climate-and-energy/tides-canada-partners-with-the-toronto-star-for-climate-and-economy-series/

Since investment markets are run by human beings, they are subject to psychological tactics that work on people, too – like ostracization.

In this article, “Dropping Oil and Investing in Green”, oil sands investment is made to sound like a failure.

So much for ‘independent journalism.’ Of course, in the TO Star-Tides Canada funded article “Dropping Oil and Investing in Green,” there’s no mention of the global anti-oil sands Tar Sands Campaign, driven by >100 groups and Corporate Ethics strategy.

Source: https://corpethics.org/about/ 

No mention that the UN Principles for Responsible Investment 2014 “Montreal Pledge,” encouraging its institutional investors (with some ~$100 trillion in Assets Under Management) to be activists with governments and corporations, to divest from fossil fuels, especially oil sands (on claim of being a ‘carbon risk’). No mention of UNPRI’s conflict of interest with ESG guru Al Gore as a public cheerleader against the oil sands and pipelines. No mention that World Resources Institute, a collaborator with Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, also set three-quarters of the unattainable Paris Agreement targets. No mention of a decade of persistent Greenpeace attacks on investors, banks and governments, often operating behind the scenes with nasty attempts to intimidate corporate executives as ‘climate criminals.’


Seems likely that Joanna Kerr, now of Tides Canada, was likely party to some of these efforts while Executive Director at Greenpeace.

That drive-off from oil sands investing was made almost complete by the Rockefellers’ CDP Worldwide report of Nov. 2016, wherein all oil sands invested companies were rated at the bottom of the CDP’s subjective ‘preparing for the future’ scale. This CDP report resulted in many institutional investors and banks abandoning the oil sands, likely on threat by financial heavies that it presented a mythical ‘carbon risk.’ Robert Lyman’s present-day comparative analysis of oil sands emissions intensity, rebutting Keith Stewart of Greenpeace, shows these claims are distorted.

Hislop writes:

At the very least, Kerr’s interview and the information provided by her organization demonstrate that a significant portion of Krause’s research is inaccurate, and her allegations are seriously flawed.” 

I contend that since the information I present, which I found online with little effort, shows that Kerr and her staff don’t know their own history, which is out there in the public domain, or are reluctant to discuss these facts.  Hislop seem reluctant to press them, or do the little research I have done.

This also raises the question, if Tides Canada wants to appear squeaky clean on the Tar Sands Campaign allegations, why would they hire someone like Kerr as CEO. She comes from Greenpeace, which has dedicated itself to destroying the Alberta oil sands, and it has largely succeeded in the objectives it described for this Oak Foundation grant of $424,373 provided in 2010 as described below.

Certainly, this should have been the first question Hislop asked of Kerr.

“To create awareness of the financial, regulatory and political uncertainty that surrounds investments in the tar sands so that prominent financial analysts, media, opinion leaders and Members of Parliament will publically express concern about the lack of government regulation of the tar sands industry. Greenpeace Canada aims to publicise the controversy around the tar sands both within and outside Canada. This will encourage the withdrawal of major institutional investors from the tar sands by 2012; the end of France’s tar sands subsidies; and the passage of a feed-in-tariff in Alberta utilised by farmers, ranchers, landowners and investors to develop the province’s huge wind power potential.”

Interestingly, on Dec. 5, 2016, the Financial Post published a blistering commentary by Markham Hislop wherein he takes the Liberals to task for playing along with environmental groups in their denigration of the National Energy Board.  Hislop wrote:

I would bet that not one Canadian in a hundred has an informed opinion of what the NEB does and how well it does that job — including many people who work in the oil and gas industry.

The eco-activist strategy was to break the pipeline review process and demand a replacement. It worked.

People formed their impressions of the NEB from news coverage of the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Expansion protests over the past five or six years.

Eco-activists have systematically demonized the regulator, claiming the NEB is broken, in the pocket of industry, doesn’t include climate change in its assessment, etc.

Hislop is referring to the ‘modernization’ of the NEB, which ended up with the ‘no more pipelines’ legislation Bill C-69. Hislop wraps up that article with these comments:

[Minister] Carr has said it’s his government’s responsibility “to move our natural resources to market sustainably.”

If so, why roll the dice and open up the Canadian environmental review process based not upon data or science but the political talking points of groups that for the most part oppose natural resources exports?

Why risk having those very same groups try to hijack the NEB “modernization” the same way they did the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain assessments?

The Liberals are playing a very dangerous game. Given that the Canadian economy is still driven by natural resource extraction, let’s hope they play to win.

Based on this, it is hard to understand Hislop’s present defence of Tides Canada when there is so much evidence of Tides Canada participation and funding of Tar Sands Campaign actors like Andrew Nikiforuk, RAVEN, and others. Even harder to understand when there is so much more evidence of Greenpeace Canada’s Tar Sands Campaign activity. With Greenpeace Canada being the environmental alma mater of Kerr, the new Tides Canada CEO, why wouldn’t Hislop ask some fair questions about that?  Hislop has made persistent efforts to delegitimize Vivian Krause as a conspiracy theorist when Krause references well-documented material (drawn from reliable public records and accounts like IRS and CRA filings).

So, in my opinion, it is a fair question to ask why Markham Hislop is playing softball with Joanna Kerr of Tides Canada on the Tar Sands Campaign against Canada.  And in light of the economic and employment damage to Canada done by that largely foreign-funded campaign, everyone should be asking – “How is this charitable activity?”

Michelle Stirling is the Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, AAAS, and APS.


Disclaimer: This is an opinion editorial independently researched by the author with no direction, funding or representation by or from any industry or party.  There was no communication with Vivian Krause about this article and the author and Friends of Science Society have no affiliation with Ms. Krause or any other body.  Tar Sands Campaign fundees use ‘climate crisis’ as the rationale for shutting down the oil sands – but this appears to be a manufactured crisis – as we discuss in this report.