Ethical Oil PR Spillage

Erica van Wyngaarden

As an Albertan and Canadian,

it is now important to make the distinction between ethical oil and Ethical Oil. The nonsensical distortion of the discourse surrounding Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline projects has been altered to reflect a much different perspective, one which was previously strengthened by the concept of ethical oil but is now politically constructed around the organization of Ethical Oil.

With Keystone XL now rejected by President Obama, even with a pending re-application from TransCanada, the Government has gone full steam ahead with its Northern Gateway Project and is soon to be visiting China to discuss further details. In reaction to heavy international and national criticism, the Government has chosen to construct a dialogue critiquing the “intervention of international environmental fringe groups” that do not have Canadian interests in mind. Harper states: “They’ll funnel money through environmental groups and others in order to try to slow it down…but, as I say, we’ll make sure that the best interests of Canada are protected.”

Ezra had it right?

I have felt it important for a while to write something regarding Keystone XL and the spurious debate which has resulted. As the debate has been closed until at least after the next U.S. Presidential election, which in unfortunate, Canada is focusing its oil interests abroad. I have made my position on oil development relatively clear, as seen in my article. In sum, it is important for Canada to fund and support the export and extraction of our key energy resource in the oil sands, while focusing on sustainable methods in doing so.  Keystone XL could have been and Northern Gateway, with further environmental reviews, will be important steps forward for Canadian oil development. Rather frustratingly, I also supported in the article the concept of “ethical oil”. While it is a flawed and philosophically weak concept, as the word ethical can be unpacked in so many different ways, I feel Ezra Levant did provide an interesting analysis in demonstrating the choices we face in regards to the oil industry. The oil sands remain a valuable and key resource for Canadians and we should take seriously this concept which was proposed. It should be noted, the use of ‘tar sands’ by oil sands opponents also serves to distort the debate and misinform the public.

However, I am shocked by the recent actions, talking points, and embarrassing public appearances by the organization of Ethical Oil in regards to Northern Gateway pipeline objectors. The organization of Ethical Oil, and its mysterious financiers, has distorted and construed the debate to become entirely ideological, political, and false. In a CBC interview with Evan Solomon, Kathryn Marshall, the new head of Ethical Oil, stumbles over her evident talking points and unprofessionally converses with both Solomon and the Sierra Club representative.

Repeating the same lines of “they’re all puppets” or “foreign special interests are hijacking the process” in reference to international environmental groups, she weakly defends the very points Ethical Oil stands for. Instead, she is reflecting a political agenda which seeks to stifle debate, constructs a false image of their opponents, and refuses to reveal the actual financiers behind Ethical Oil. As a supporter of the idea of ethical oil, I was disappointed that a strong debate was limited by ideological talking points of the organization Ethical Oil.

The construction of international actors and partners as a negative part of the Northern Gateway Process, as they are not Canadian and thus do not take our interests in mind, is being questioned by Canadians as to whether this is a valid idea. This is an important step to furthering an intelligent and constructive debate regarding oil, which needs to be reintroduced. One needs not be part of a particular political ideology to see the strength and necessity of said debate. Oil is an important resource which Canadians can and should benefit from, as I stated in my previous article. Paul Wells strongly writes: “Indeed, one hardly needs to be plugged into the mains of Conservative power to share the government’s perspective. Calgary pollster Marc Henry found last autumn that 81 per cent of the province’s residents are “proud of Alberta’s energy resources” and that 73 per cent agree with the statement, “If it weren’t for Alberta’s energy sector, I wouldn’t enjoy the quality of life I do today.”  Disappointingly, the ethical oil debate now surrounds the organization of Ethical Oil itself rather than discussing the numerous merits of the oil sands themselves.