Why big oil’s Canadian oil bosses fear their political spending is hurting Canada

Oil and gas industry representatives should not be able to spend money on political campaigns, says a statement by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

“Canada’s oil and gas sector should not be seen as a proxy for the corporation or individuals with a direct interest in the activities of the government,” reads the comment. The paper notes that companies like ConocoPhillips have already withdrawn some of their political-spending plans for Canada’s election scheduled for October 2019.

The council, which includes representatives from the Canada’s large oil companies, was scheduled to make the statement during a meeting on Wednesday. The oil giants sent CEO Patricia Yurek to the meeting. This is probably not the last we’ll hear from them. Yurek is among several top industry executives who met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month and are planning further talks with Trudeau and other federal politicians.

In their statement, the oil executives lament that the “government’s energy policies do not reflect the majority of Canadians,” and that “too often the government’s policies and proposals appear designed to advance the interests of those companies with significant, but non-debt-financed, political spending.”

“Our country is not the only one to have suffered from this impact, and as a group we have been at odds with the federal government on this issue,” the executives wrote.

Canada has a small role in global oil production, but the three largest producers, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, together account for about 2 percent of total global oil reserves, according to a report by Oil Sands Magazine. They were once seen as front-runners to create Canada’s next oil super-corporation. But over the past few years, these companies have taken a hit from the multiple tax increases and restrictions on their activities that Trudeau has introduced since taking office.

Some oil executives have come under fire for their past lobbying efforts. ConocoPhillips spent $5.8 million on lobbying in the United States in 2015, almost half of which was spent on behalf of TransCanada. Last month, Trudeau’s government postponed a decision on the contentious Keystone XL pipeline that would have linked Alberta’s oilsands with Oklahoma’s Gulf Coast. In response, he said that he hoped ExxonMobil would invest in the Canadian oilsands.

The decision to postpone the Keystone XL pipeline, and pending political climate change, will encourage more companies to take a similar step with TransCanada. Meanwhile, the oil executives’ statement on Wednesday notes that they “support TransCanada’s choice to continue to pursue options to build its pipeline system on a North American basis.”

The comments are particularly interesting given the oil executives’ outspoken support for Trudeau’s pipeline options in the United States.

Read the full statement at The Hill.


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