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.