C3 Alliance Corp. is a private consulting firm that specializes in Indigenous engagement and negotiation in the context of resource extraction. It leverages the experience of its staff—many of them former government and industry executives from mining, oil and forestry sectors—to lobby government in the interests of resource extraction, and to advise industry on how to avoid conflict when working with Indigenous communities whose territories are implicated in their operations. While C3 Alliance also contracts its consulting services to Indigenous communities looking to increase benefits to them from resource development, the largest share of C3 Alliance’s client base is industry—primarily mining, forestry, fracking and pipeline companies.16
C3 advertises its consultants’ extensive work experience in government and industry, as well as its ability to communicate with Indigenous communities. This provides C3 with an opportunity to insert clients’ interests into politically sensitive arenas that might be inaccessible otherwise. As a result, C3 Alliance provides corporate capital with a powerful strategic tool to gain social license for its projects, making it one of our Top 50 in the enabler category.
C3 Alliance supports industry within a changing political landscape for Indigenous rights. In 2004, the Haida v. British Columbia case established that the Crown had to consult with Indigenous communities before any potential infringement on their Aboriginal rights and title. Since then, corporations have become increasingly aware of the imperative to engage First Nations in order to avoid the same fate. Boasting its consultants’ ability to act as a bridge between government, industry and Indigenous communities, C3 Alliance positions itself as a convenor for the interests of resource development.
In its advisory role, C3’s tone toward industry–Indigenous relations is cautionary: a BC newspaper article quoted its CEO, Dan Jepsen, stating that “perhaps most important for companies is there’s no real, inherent veto right [by First Nations] to projects moving forward. But I’d be very careful about playing that card too strongly.”1
To support their corporate clients navigating this uncertain political terrain, C3’s consultants offer clients “relationship development”2 services in the most “strategic and beneficial manner to advance their interests.”3 C3 consultants also work in Indigenous communities, carrying out “front-line engagement” 4 through workshops that teach community members about energy issues. For instance, the “Let’s Talk Natural Gas” workshop strives to “help communities appreciate the potential economic opportunities of natural gas development.”5
Finally, C3’s staff lobby government officials on behalf of clients. Its website formerly boasted of the organization’s “positive respectful relations with key senior decision makers” in federal, municipal and provincial government bodies as an asset to “maximiz[e] communication time and opportunities” for clients to influence policy-makers.6
Natural Resources Forum
C3 Alliance is the official coordinator and host of the BC Natural Resources Forum—northern BC’s largest annual convention for the natural resource industry, providing networking opportunities for government and industry executives. The conference was a mainstay during the tenure of the previous BC Liberal government—in 2016 Christy Clark commented that the forum had “become the must-attend event of the year in British Columbia” for those involved in resource development.7 Despite some commentators’ concerns that an NDP government would play a less prominent role in the proceedings, the 2018 event featured keynote addresses from Premier John Horgan as well as Minister of Natural Resources Canada James Carr. Featured speakers also included five provincial ministers, such as BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman and BC Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall. Industry speakers included Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Susannah Pierce, External Relations Director of LNG Canada, among others.8
During the conference, C3 Alliance delivered a workshop titled “When ‘It’ Hits the Fan: Crisis Communications for Resource Companies.” The session trained industry executives to “manage the onslaught of public scrutiny from critics, journalists and government regulators” in the wake of protests, blockades and environmental contamination (such as pipeline spills), advising industry on how to “influence and control public discussion” to protect a company’s “valuable reputation” during such a crisis.9 Facilitators included one of C3’s associates, Martin Livingston, who worked as a PR consultant for Western Forest Products during the Clayoquot Sound protests. Livingston’s bio cites that he was “instrumental in managing public perceptions on behalf of Western Forest Products to successfully counter activist protests, blockades and an international product boycott in the 1990s.”10
Ties to government
Revolving doors between C3 staff and the provincial government strengthen the organization’s close ties to policy- makers, as personnel move from government to C3. Geoff Freer, one of C3’s investors, is the former assistant deputy minister in the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Vic Levson, one of C3’s consultants, worked for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines for 20 years, leaving his position as Executive Director of Resource Development and Geosciences in the Oil and Gas Division to open his own consulting business. During his tenure at the ministry, Levson worked on gas exploration proposals, and gas pipeline projects as well as mineral extraction. C3 Alliance’s political interests are also represented in campaign funding: in the months leading up to the election (between January 1,st 2017, and May 12th, 2017), the C3 Alliance donated $1,750 to the BC Liberal Party.11
Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings
C3 Alliance has done communications work for Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd. (a company proposing a pipeline that would travel along a similar route to that of the now-cancelled Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline).12 The Eagle Spirit pipeline has support from some First Nations chiefs in BC and Alberta, but it has also been opposed by Indigenous alliances such as the Yinka Dene Alliance, the Coastal First Nations,13 and hereditary chiefs from Lax Kw’alaams, where the pipeline terminal would be sited.14 Backed by Vancouver’s Aquilini Group, Eagle Spirit is currently fighting against the moratorium on oil tanker traffic imposed by Trudeau as a response to widespread opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.15
There is insufficient publicly available information to create a map for this case study.
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.