Why No Climate Action? Follow The Money

Big polluters donate big bucks to B.C. politicians

Here’s a puzzle: Why is Enbridge, a Calgary-based pipeline operator, still donating money to politicians in B.C.? The company has given more than a quarter-million dollars so far, $248,535 to the BC Liberals and $9,800 to the NDP. Last year Enbridge wrote a dozen cheques to the governing party totalling $22,525.

Maybe they just love democracy. Or maybe they believe Premier Clark could still “get to yes” on the Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tanker proposal.

For more than 10 years, Enbridge and its partners in the Chinese government have been trying to build a crude oil terminal on the B.C. coast. Given the huge profits at stake, a few thousand bucks a month is a modest investment in keeping the project alive.

Enbridge is hardly alone. This pattern of political donations repeats itself all through the fossil fuel sector:

  • $33,188 from Kinder Morgan, Texas-based owner of the Trans Mountain pipeline
  • $31,795 from Apache, another Texas oil and gas company
  • $117,050 from Petronas, the Malaysian state company behind Lelu Island LNG
  • $136,851 from TransCanada Pipelines, which would ship gas for Petronas
  • $300,850 from Spectra Energy, another gas pipeline hopeful
  • $112,940 from Talisman Energy, a major fracking player from Calgary
  • $150,238 from Chevron, the California-based backer of Kitimat LNG
  • $32,400 from Australia’s MacQuarie, owners of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal port
  • $123,170 from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)
  • $55,639 from Alberta oil sands giant Suncor
  • $95,290 from Devon, another Calgary-based oil and gas company
  • $176,980 from Canadian Natural Resources, another Calgary oil sands producer
  • $200,000 from 328727 AB LTD, owned by Calgary oil executive Allan Markin
  • $85,425 from Cenovus, another Calgary oil sands producer
  • $1,162,751 from Encana, a Calgary oil & gas company founded by Gwyn Morgan
  • $200,270 from Gwyn Morgan, now a key advisor to Premier Christy Clark

The list goes on and on.

Data compiled by Integrity BC suggests the oil and gas industry has donated at least $3.8 million to the ruling BC Liberals since 2005 (when Elections BC began keeping records), with another $5.1 million from mining and coal companies.

Like bitumen, money corrodes

As you can see, the laws created by B.C. politicians allow them to take unlimited cash from any corporation, union or numbered company anywhere in the world. For heaven’s sake, even the United States doesn’t allow political donations from  outside the country.

This system leaves B.C. decision-makers wide open to influence by the fossil fuel industry — including state-owned energy companies belonging to other governments in China and Malaysia.

How can our politicians be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of British Columbians when they owe their very political survival to foreign corporations? The answer is they can’t, and the effect on public policy has become deeply corrosive.

The irony is that as the need to decarbonize our economy becomes more real, so too does the need for fossil fuel companies to liquidate their reserves before they lose value. Hence the current rush to expand coal ports, fracking and oil pipelines in British Columbia, despite the deepening climate crisis.

Our politicians have become vocal cheerleaders for this global pollution industry — going so far as to adopt the line that burning more fossil fuels will fix the problem of climate change. From easy permits and weak regulations to cheap water, free infrastructure, electricity and even lobbying help, the B.C. government has rolled out the red carpet for oil and gas companies.

That’s why it’s so galling to hear Premier Clark claim the donations are all just a big coincidence. “Whatever anybody tells me or donates to me or my party, it cannot be connected to decisions we make on behalf of the people in B.C. And it’s not,” Clark says.

The only way for B.C. politicians to prove they’re not influenced by corporate donations is to stop taking the money. So long as they refuse, the public is left to assume the worst.

We’re not idiots

It’s simple: these companies wouldn’t invest cash in lobbying or political donations unless it helped their bottom line. That’s how private enterprise works. And with every dollar shovelled over the border by Alberta oil sands companies, Clark’s opposition to crude oil tankers weakens.

Meanwhile, Premier Clark’s LNG spokesman, Gordon Wilson, claims we have a “moral obligation” to frack the ground beneath our feet, vent methane into the sky and ship what’s left to be burned in Asia. With all due respect to Mr. Wilson, first I think we have a moral obligation to plug the sulfurous holes that are belching oil and gas money into our political atmosphere.

Our beautiful province is already headed for decades of costly climate instability. We’ve been shown warning signs in the form of wildfires, animal die-offs, disappearing snowpack and water shortages. Lethal heat waves, rising sea levels and even climate refugees could be a fact of life in the near future.

How bad it gets depends on how quickly our species can break the link between pollution and prosperity. The technology and policies already exist, but progress is being deliberately undermined by fossil fuel companies and the politicians in their pocket.

Our job is to break that financial link here in B.C. so our politicians can be made accountable to their constituents — rather than out-of-province corporations. Dogwood has a plan to achieve this essential democratic reform, either in the 2017 election or shortly thereafter.

B.C. is going to be a key battleground in the global fight for a safe and sustainable future. If you care about climate, join the #BanBigMoney campaign and let’s change history.

10 Responses to “Why No Climate Action? Follow The Money”

  1. Roderick MacDonald says:

    Thank you for this.

  2. Jocelyn says:

    These climate destroying, dead-end-for-everyone companies have all this money to bribe a long list of totally corrupt Canadian politicians, yet NONE of them pay their bleep bleep INCOME TAX!!

    If a hard working and honest citizen tried that we would end up in jail very quickly!! Kick all of them out of office and start all over again!!!!

  3. WayneF says:

    Why on EARTH would any corporation donate to a political party – if not to forward its own interests. DO we really have to prove a point that is self evident?

    Christy Clark’s denial thereof is simply insulting.

    Corporate political contributions are patently corrupt in that they seek to circumvent the will of the people. The practice needs to be halted – whether from within or without our own province and country.

  4. Sue Stroud says:

    Wouldn’t this article be more fair, more full of integrity if it mentioned that the BCNDP has now introduced a bill to ban big money 5 times? In addition they have introduced a bill to guarantee that govt advertising does not promote the governing party, by having all ads vetted by the Auditor General as is done in Ontario. It was the BCNDP who also tabled bills that would reform cmttee structures to represent all the parties and make the chairs from the opposition most of the time rather than the governing party.This has been put in practice with the Standing Committee on Agriculture. The govt wouldn’t bring it forward so the NDP did and they ask independent Vicki Huntingdon to chair. Gary Holman the Saanich North and the Islands NDP MLA is the Democratic Reform critic and has a lot of good ideas.

  5. Erin Heineman says:

    I was unable to share this wonderful article on Facebook. I kept getting a “WordPress:Error” message.

    • Lisa Sammartino says:

      Hi Erin,
      Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We are trying our best to fix this bug. In the meantime, you can copy the url and paste it on Facebook and it should work that way (at least it did for me). – Lisa

  6. barbara says:

    Well written and informative. What British Columbians need to do , all Canadians for that matter , is get up and make a noise, not just on one day but every day.

    They also need to get behind and support the Green Party in BC in a big way. Stop being afraid of losing jobs , stop being afraid period and act , in your own way every day.

    Democracy, does not end after the ballot boxes close It Begins. We need to hold our politicians accountable, not just the Premier, but the politicians we can access , each and every one of our MLAs . Their is so much we could do on our own if we we weren’t worried about speaking out, making a scene or thinking we had noting to say.

    It is up to us and thanks to Dogwood and other News we have an opportunity to learn and speak

  7. Sam Smith says:

    I think you’d have to be pretty darn confident Clark will win the next election and then equally confident she’ll be able to convince the people of BC to change their mind on pipelines thru BC NOT going to happen!

    So why indeed would Enbridge continue to support a sinking ship? I do not know but maybe it’s about displaying the perception of not losing on Enbridge’s part than actually believing they still have a chance.

  8. Alan Monk says:

    A powerful message… It’s flabbergasting to me. Flabbergasting.

    Thanks for your work. You are fighting for the same democracy that my uncle and namesake fought and died for.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Did Gwyn Morgan invent the Internet too?

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