The global conspiracy to make Canada’s energy debate sound ridiculous

Why Jacques Cousteau had a boat instead of a Paris Métro pass

JD Hancock/Flickr

Surely the only reasonable reaction to allegations that some Canadian environmental groups receive cash and instructions from beyond our borders is “Gee, I sure hope so. Otherwise they’d be doing it wrong.”

If you’ve looked at a photo of the Earth lately, you’ll notice what I did in 1970: somebody forgot to draw in national borders. Clouds and currents don’t have passports; nor should anybody expect a movement dedicated, as environmentalists see it, to protecting the whole planet to colour within national lines. I’m not sure how to make this clearer, since it should be pretty obvious, but it’s why Jacques Cousteau had a boat instead of a Paris Métro pass.

Similarly, I would have thought it’d be obvious that commodities are often traded among different countries. I don’t know a lot of mom-and-pop oil companies that pump the crude at one end of town and sell it to consumers at the other. And finally, it’s less shocking that broad political movements consult across international boundaries than it would be if they didn’t. (Here’s a wonderful piece of reporting on three French students of the 2008 Obama campaign who helped get François Hollande elected in France. Americans have sought to influence Canadian elections, and vice versa, forever.)

And yet here we are stuck in a crossfire of complaints that the environmental movement, the oil industry and Canadian conservatism, in the guise of the Fraser Institute, are receiving “foreign money.” 

This all started when Stephen Harper complained last autumn about “significant American interests” seeking to “funnel money through environmental groups” to block the Northern Gateway pipeline project. That led to the very-semi-arm’s-length-from-government website ourdecision.ca, which I chronicled in the article to which I just linked, and to the language about foreign-funded charities in the recent budget. That led to the counter-charges from environmentalists and to the other stories cited here.

I can’t conceive of changes to legislation that would hamper foreign-funded environmental groups without also harming Conservative-friendly organizations as well as others that have nothing to do with commodities exports. The whole mess is likely to end up in the courts, where the Harper government has had a rough go of things lately.

Still, Harper doesn’t necessarily lose politically if he loses, someday, eventually, in court. In the meantime he’ll have given supporters of oil exports something to rally around, and he is constantly on the lookout for such issues. Tom Mulcair, by the same token, can hope to increase NDP support even if a lot of Canadians find his critique of the oil sands misguided. Both men need the support of a little more than one-third of voters. Each can get it on this issue and still leave a little left over for Liberals.

But it’s all so petty. Canadians are as active across the world as anyone from any country. It’s sad when our politics turn into a battle of competing isolationisms.




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The global conspiracy to make Canada’s energy debate sound ridiculous

  1. Ha!

    But it’s all so petty. Canadians are as active across the world as
    anyone from any country. It’s sad when our politics turn into a battle
    of competing isolationisms.

  2. “It’s sad when our politics turn into a battle of competing isolationisms.”

    Yes, it’s The Invisible Hand of The Market™. It’s “Choice”. “Choice” is good. “Choice” drives “Competition”. “Competition” drives “Solutions”.

    Why are you opposed to “Choice”? Do you think that Government should Impose Solutions? That’s Communism!

  3. the only way to get rid of harper now is with a coup. there will be no more elections (not that we can trust elections any longer anyway). PM4LIFE.

    • Ever thought of going into drama? : )

      • Mayan calender says Russ will not have time to hit even higher hysterics.

        • Hey…we each somehow got one minus vote, so I gave Russ one too, just to keep things fair.

  4. Canadians are a fair bunch. We don’t mind if people have ideas and causes and want to get their message out in a free and democratic manner. What Canadians get irked about is some organizations having the advantage of charity status to do political work while others don’t.
    Let’s all play fair. If Greenpeace wants to be a charity, let the Fraser Institute be a charity too.

  5. Countries with Anglo institutions and customs are uniting to drive progress. I think greenies are mostly kooks but they are allowed their opinions and to be heard. An astonishing amount of $$$ flows between Anglo countries and money is fungible – foreign money and domestic money is nonsensical when we have foreign companies in Canada and Canadian companies are abroad.

    Harper Cons attack on charities is peculiar because it is not only a few environmental charities that receive ‘foreign’ money and many of the party’s supporters are big fans of charitable orgs.

    And if Cons are going to attack specific charities, I wish they were more coherent when they did so. Level of debate in Canada is pathetic – I thought we paid MPs big salaries to attract talented people but I am still waiting for this to be true. So far, lavish salaries and pensions makes our MPs stupider, not better.

    Anglosphere Challenge:

    The Anglosphere is more than the sum of all persons who have learned the English language. To be part of the Anglosphere implies the sharing of fundamental customs and values at the core of English-speaking cultures: individualism; rule of law; honoring of convenants; in general, the high-trust characteristics described by Francis Fukuyama in Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity; and the emphasis on freedom as a political and cultural value.
    The Anglosphere shares a narrative in which the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, trial by jury, “innocent until proven guilty,” “a man’s home is his castle,” and “a man’s word is his bond” are common themes.

  6. I have my own addendum theory as to why all of the over the top rhetoric from Ministers Oliver and Kent.

    Both being T.O. based MPs, with no apparent direct connection with Canada’s oil patch (unlike Conservative predecessors Jim Prentice and Rona Ambrose on the environment file/industry files – Baird was an interim loudmouth by nature) they are both endeavouring to avoid being dismissed by the “oh, another person from the east – Toronto” by oilpatch diehards. So, they are trying to prove their “creds” by making these over the top claims – targeting environmental groups etc.

    In effect trying to out-Ezra Ezra. This follows in the tradition of Ralph Klein (global warming – was it dinosaur farts?) and that whole group that has coalesced around Wildrose (the Byfields, failed candidate and “industry executive” David Yager, the folks at U of C that brought us “Friends of Science” through “laundered” contributions, Rod Love etc. etc.

    It seemed to me the more moderate Jim Prentice had his fill with inaction by industry/posturing at the end of his tenure. The over the top actions of Oliver and Kent it appears is starting to backfire, and rightly so.

      • If the plant material was not eaten by animals, it would have largely decomposed and released the same volumes of methane naturally. Why biofuels are considered as no net increase in CO2 emissions.

        Oops, had I inadvertently introduced science? Kindly disregard.

        • ” have largely decomposed and released the same volumes of methane naturally.”

          Not true some animals have very low levels of methane generation with very efficient digestion systems.

          Additionally not all organic material is released into the atmosphere naturally, though slow and not apparent to the average human dead organic being deposited today will one day become a source of oil and gas.

          Where do you think the stuff we have now comes from??

          • Why I wrote “it would have LARGELY decomposed”.

            Yes, fossil fuels, coal, gas etc are the result of carbon trapped over millions of years, cooked and not released back into the environment by percolating up through the ground . But these are a very small percentage over millions of years.

            At some distant point, the CO2 concentration in the environment was much higher – gradually reduced by storing the carbon as mentioned. By burning it, we are in the process of returning the atmosphere to prehistoric levels.

            If some animals have low levels of methane production, then the material is stored either in its fat (to be decomposed later) or in its feces.See Law of Conservation of Matter.


          • If some animals have low levels of methane production, then the material is stored either in its fat (to be decomposed later) or in its feces.See Law of Conservation of Matter”

            Well actually the production of methane and its discharge from the animal has absolutely nothing to do with principle of conservation of matter.

            All animals that eat one kilo of plant material will excrete that matter less the amount of material absorbed.

            The real difference comes in the manner in which the plant based material is broken down with the bacteria present in the body, cows have one of the highest levels of methane production due to the type of bacteria that is present in their digestive system.


          • The real difference comes in the manner in which the plant based material is broken down with the bacteria present in the body, cows have one of the highest levels of methane production due to the type of bacteria that is present in their digestive system.

            Decomposition – this is when the methane is formed from the feces. Methane is CH4. In cows, the bacteria present acts as an accelerant/catalyst to create larger volumes removed as methane gas in situ. Otherwise, it would eventually decay slower in the cow patties/manure that would otherwise have a higher concentrations of C and H.

            “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. If the Lord don’t get us, the Devil must.”

        • “Oops, had I inadvertently introduced science?”

          No, you purposely introduced garbage.

          The problem with burning fossil fuels is that we will convert, say, 40 million years of accumulated plant matter in the space of 200 years. You’re quite right that if it hadn’t turned into oil but rotted it would have released the CO2 anyway. It would have done it steadily over the course of millions of years, millions of years ago.

          Pretending those are the same is not science, it’s willful ignorance. Shame on you.

          • I have no idea what you are blabbering about.

  7. These aren’t “competing isolationisms” Mr. Wells. The targeted parties, Canadian environmental groups and their supporters, are pointing out the hypocrisy of the government accusations which are entirely insincere.
    By focusing on the distraction of faux outrage about foreign influence, we miss the point which is if the governing party doesn’t like you, you will be surveilled and obstructed by government agencies. The same loudmouths who pretend they are against government intrusion have amassed the powers of the state in the form of Canada Revenue Agency to audit TIDES and others.
    That’s the outrage, not parochialism.

    • Careful now … you’re disrupting the “why can’t anyone see that everything’s
      all the same and I’m so tired of it” symphony.

  8. Most of what the Harper Cons do leaves me sad —

  9. I think that a lot of people are losing sight of the objections by many including the government.

    That the foreign influence is being siphoned into Canada through the back door of non-profit “charitable” organizations who then claim a tax write down for the contribution.

    If the Yanks want to come here and have a say set up your own organization without tax free status and make your stand.

    Can you imagine the backlash and rhetoric that would have been unleashed from the Dippers and Fiberals had the NRA tried to influence the governments or public decision on the national gun registry. They would have been howling mad and rightly so.

    The whole manner in which green house gasses emissions are being meted out to countries is ludicrous in the extreme. We Canada the nation with the second highest geographical area are being compared to some tiny EU country that could fit into a province a couple times over. We are a huge country and it takes a huge amount of energy just to keep us warm in the winter and move goods across the country.

    • The NRA was very much involved in working to destroy our long-gun registry and interfering in Canadian politics. The Conservative sell-outs and wannabe Yanks did not object to this:

      “And they would think, ‘well, wait a minute, I thought this was about, you know, wasting taxpayer dollars. The NRA’s involved? Really? That makes me very uncomfortable … ‘”

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/09/13/canada-nra-gun-registry.html

      • I would whole heartily disagree that the NRA has had anything like the type of influence on the long gun registry.

        There have been no contributions to any Canadian non-profits nor has there been any lobbying of government.

        Sure they came to a meeting and had a guest speaker but compared to tides Canada this is a mite on the elephants butt.

        • “There have been no contributions to any Canadian non-profits nor has there been any lobbying of government”

          You know that just making things up to support your point is not just irrational but lying?

          Unless the CRA audited them – which they didn’t, because it’s only THIS government that abuses the bureaucracy by turning it into a political weapon – you simply have NO IDEA that what you say is true.

          Do you know how much the Koch brothers have given to Canadian non-profits or charities? Nope. You don’t know anything, really, but you can make stuff up on a dime.

          • Mark Twain was quite accurate when he said a lie can travel the world before the truth can put its boots on. By the time you explain why he’s wrong, he’s ten posts down blathering the same crapola. Even when you calmly show them up, they laugh at you because they wasted far more of your time than they did.

          • Hello, is anyone actually at home in that void in between your ears??

            The purposes of the audits being done by the CRA is to determine how the money being received by the “charity” groups like Tides Canada is being spent. The contributions to them and to any other organization be it from the states or over sees is very transparent in their reporting.

            This goes for the NRA, which by the way is prohibited by its own mandate from making donations to others. And any lobbying that would have been done would had to have been registered on the hlll.

            So who is irrational and lying, provide some facts to back up your lefty rhetoric and general whining.

      • Please do not quote the CBC as a credible reference

    • How exactly does that work? My feeble grasp of tax wrte off law does at least include the relevant fact that US donors may only claim a tax write off on their earnings in Canada…over to you Dot?

      • The break comes for the Canadian branch that receives the money.

        Essentially the charity is draining money from the general revenues of the government.

        Then they use this tax free money to do business, lobbying of govt to try and make changes. All actions that are forbidden for a non-profit group.

        In effect they are having the Canadian people subsidize their political agenda.

        • truenorthfree2, I’m afraid your political zeal exceeds your understanding of how Canadian charities and tax breaks work. The tax exempt status for charities means that they can write tax receipts to their Canadian donors who can then deduct (part of) that amount from their Canadian taxable income. Foreign donors do not pay Canadian taxes and have no tax advantages. Simply put: Canadian donor, tax advantage; foreign donor no tax advantage.

          • Where did I state that the tax advantage was to the donor??

            It boils down to an organization using tax free status to get money do non-charitable work with it and then deprive the Canadian taxpayer of tax revenue on their real business.

            Cause that is what these jokers are a business and should be paying taxes on their income.

            So maybe it is your zeal that is in the way of the facts. READ don’t ASSUME.

          • That’s totally inaccurate. These organizations generally don’t have “profits” that would be taxed as income. If they weren’t charities they would be called “non-profit organizations” and the main difference would be – they couldn’t offer tax reciepts.

          • That’s totally inaccurate. These organizations generally don’t have “profits” that would be taxed as income. If they weren’t charities they would be called “non-profit organizations” and the main difference would be – they couldn’t offer tax reciepts.

          • Wrong again.

            If they where not hiding behind the tax free status they would have to pay taxes on their general revenue (income) it would not be a profit per se but income still.

            I as a general tax payer do not have profits but I still pay taxes on my income.

            And non profits do offer tax receipts http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/qlfd-dns/qd-lstngs/RCAAA-ACESA-lst-eng.html this link will get you you to the list of all the Canadian non-profits that issue receipts.

          • They do but they aren’t deductible. Please stop pretending you know of what you speak.

        • Wrong as usual.
          It’s a charity, so it doesn’t pay tax. This doesn’t take from the general revenues. This doesn’t create a subsidy. It doesn’t create a write-off for the foreign donor.

          If what you’re saying is that Canada should have no charities, and all non-profits and charities should pay corporate income taxes, then please say so.

          Otherwise, you are just doing as this government is doing: Attacking something that is normal, legal, and happens all the time, just because it’s your opponents who are doing it.

          • I only wish that the left could read and type at the same time.

            By definition a charity is something that is the “generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless:”.

            And a Lobbyist is by definition “a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest; a member of a lobby.”

            So when the when the money is not being used to benefit but rather to influence government it is no longer a charity but a business in business to make changes in government.

            The fact that it is no longer acting as a charity means that it should be paying tax on its revenues and contributing to general revenues.

            We should have charities and non profits but they must use the money that is given to them in the manner that fits the tax exemption requirement else they should lose the benefit.

          • The right off for the foreign donar is in the u.s. as it is channeled through tax exempt foundations.Canadian law says a charity cannot spend more then 10% of its revenue on political action or it would Lose its tax exempt status.

      • The money coming from the u.s. is from various foundations which all have the same type of tax exempt status in the u.s as charities do in Canada.

  10. I think Canadian content laws provide the right model to promote true, made-in-Canada activism. Indeed, if well crafted, Canadian content laws for activism can help strengthen the positive effects of our regulation of television and magazines.
    For instance, we could require activist groups to devote at least 25% of their time to discussing approved Canadian issues, such as:
    -whether Don Cherry should be canonized
    -whether Don Cherry should be shot out of a cannon into the sun
    -whether we should take steps to ensure that the Littlest Hobo is syndicated for eternity
    -whether Vermont maple syrup should be classified, for legal purposes, as a household cleaner and forcibly packaged as such
    -whether the theme song of telefrancais should be the new national anthem
    -whether we should make it illegal for Peter Mansbridge to retire (including if he dies)

    • To give this idea more actual serious attention than the playful author did, Canadian content laws in media are created to ensure an industry can exist, applying them to activist groups would create undue restrictions on the groups. Laws against charities engaging in political activity prevent back-door campaign contributions. We have three separate models here, all applicable to different things.

  11. This government has been the most divisive, hostile, hate-promoting and unCanadian (in terms of our post-war tradition and international standing) in its history!
    Surely, you don’t expect the bully-boy tactics of the Harper Government to gain any traction other than in quarters where an argument is settled much quicker with a punch than a debate!
    They are an embarrassment to our country…..no wonder we lost the UN Security Council seat! A bunch of amateur angry clowns are running this country, having inherited $13 billion and running up a debt of $60 billion, mostly to promote their divisive tactics with the Canadian taxpayer’s money! A majority through fraud….

  12. The most radical group in Ottawa is the bunch that calls itself the “Harper Government” and terrorizes seniors, women, students and environmentalists with their “ready to fire” and “scrap the lone gun registry” approach. Guess they don’t want any record of who owns what weapons, eh! The Police Chiefs wanted the long Gun REgistry and so did the parents of the murdered girls at Ecole Polytechnique. But not the Harpo robots!

  13. Sure, you can’t see borders on a photo of earth. But still, when you walk to the American border, you can’t declare yourself a citizen of planet earth and walk across without the border guards’ approval.

    Similarly, whether an oil pipeline is allowed to be built in Canada is a matter between Canadians, we being the people who run this part of the world. Maybe when the USA becomes the 11th province, that may change. But that’s the story for now.

    However, I don’t see why charities cannot benefit from worldwide donations, them being non-political and all. So as long as they remain non-political, then what’s the problem? Does the Fraser Institute conduct political activism? Not as far as I can tell, they don’t appear to lobby the government for anything. They conduct studies and publish articles.

    • When discussing the Fraser Institute, it’s proper form to put quote marks around “studies”.

  14. I think Paul Wells should run for politics. After all, he is campaigning constantly to oust Harper and get Trudeau as Prime Minister. He has an unfair advantage as a journalist with a big platform. Maybe you should go back to your roots and report the news, instead of making it up.

    • Wells is too much of a chicken s##t… Better to bray his nonsense from the sidelines to his loyal fans on the extreme left.

      • Can two form a circle jerk?

  15. As unimpressed as I am with the Harper Government’s shenanigans, the idea U.S. attempting to fuck us (yet again) with backroom funding to choice groups isn’t that implausible (lumber and cattle sanctions anyone?).

    • ..Oh YEAHHH – remember the Avro Arrow.. remember the Bomarc down our throats for continental defence…remember follow John and cancellation of northern development roads to riches because we could have the DEW line ..for those true beliervers willing to suspend disbelief about our neighbour to the south…the Gateway intervention is just…well, “business as usual”.

  16. I’ve heard this superficial one world, give up our sovereignty, NWO “argument” before… usually coming from the extreme left and those that would have us all living in caves. Transferring the wealth and giving up our rights as a sovereign nation, is the agenda. As Wells illustrates, the “argument” for committing cultural and economic suicide by allowing foreign billionaires, special interest groups and ideological extremists to influence our society by “money laundering” and hiding behind the facade of “charities”, while undermining our institutions and sovereignty is a specious one at best. Wells irrational, uncompelling “arguments” (the end justifies the means) read more like a symptom of Harper derangement syndrome.

    • And they say the left is deluded and mad. Just what on earth do you think big oil is if it isn’t a special interest?
      But really it’s so easy to regard someone’s opinion as being credible when they run around with silly juvenile slurs as their online handle.

      • “And they say the left is deluded and mad” You are proof in the veracity of that statement. You could also add, that the left are emotional nit wits who suffer from a supremacist nature based on nothing more then their own insufferable self importance.

        • “You could also add, that the left are emotional nit wits who suffer from a supremacist nature based on nothing more then their own insufferable self importance”
          Projecting much?
          Are you capable of writing any comment that isn’t either a vile personal slur, or a ridiculous bit of ironic hyperpole?

          • Speaking of ridiculous ironic hyperbole… and vile personal slurs.

  17. To bad Mulcair couldn’t be placed into a cannon and fired into the sun.

  18. Our problem for three decades has been elite environmentalists.

    They are academic fat cats that have no stake in the real world of trade, commerce, and survival of our species.

    They sit on the fringe creating one criticism after another, and rake in their booty based on knocking down sand castles rather than building them. This is not an irrational rant, but a clear observation. Environmentalists need to stop seeking their strokes by being adversarial.

    I ask myself why they don’t contribute something, and I always get the same answer—they get their disproportionate compensation from our governments, and they don’t have to account to anyone.

    • I can’t decide which is more adorable: that you believe
      environmentalists are “raking in booty” or that you needed to clarify
      that this is NOT an irrational rant.

      • Personally i kick back in Suzuki’s palatial mansion in Vancouver whenever i can; get to go out on his150′ cruiser every summer wknd too…or is that Jimmy Pattersons? I forget now.

  19. I’m still not 100% sure why the government is wasting so much time and energy ‘battling’ Tides Canada et al….the NGP is likely to get approved regardless. If the NGP doesn’t get approved, it’s unlikely that will occur due to environmental shortfalls – it’s much more likely that it won’t get approved because the proponents can’t reach suitable agreements with First Nations folks.

    Perhaps ‘built’ is a better word than ‘approved’.

  20. Hey, foreign funding in Canadian affairs is no big deal. Why would you think otherwise? Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

  21. From another thread, if Harper wants to be such a pro-Israel supporter, why doesn’t he fund one of their excellent solar or water desalination companies, (they have good CBEN mitigation companies too which is a federal national security responsibility), and let their shareholders donate, instead of funding bad community centre projects? Our wind and solar interests are hammered by the Christian policies, save for some metals miners.
    Just realized that with industrial water supplies hammered by bad AGW (initially more water in some glacial meltoff water regions), will trigger riots and failed states just as easily as food and water shortages and coastal flooding induced migrations will. No more made in China crap for Harper’s grand-kiddies. AB is funding $3B (tentatively) for crop research. This is good but projects like this could be an annual announcement if learned how to save money in their $34B Trust. Pretty soon they wouldn’t need tar revenue, which could be subject of a federal buyout. I like raising retirement age. If you vote for Hell on Earth, might as well lie in the bed you make. Could use the savings to fund medical equipment manufacturing; surely we can do that better than soon aging China. Now that we are oily innefficient, we should be running surpluses and hike interest rates. Reserves wanted to deviate from Chretein’s wish and got their way. AB wanted to deviate from most efficient political dynasty on Earth and is getting their medicine:
    a bunch of violent crime, long commutes to big homes and gas-guzzler vehicles, instead of inveting medicines. Whether women should have the vote still is an open debate.

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