The Canada West Foundation is a think tank focused on public policy issues in Western Canada. It was established in 1970 following a conservative political summit in Lethbridge, Alberta, and eventually became the ideological testing ground for Canada’s Reform Party—the right-wing populist party led by Preston Manning until 2000.10
Aided by financial support from some of Canada’s largest corporations, Canada West has grown into a prominent source of regional economic policy ideas specializing in transborder trade and economic liberalization. Pipelines, coastal shipping and a critique of environmentalism all factor into the Foundation’s purview as an unwavering supporter of Canada’s fossil fuel industries, making it a key legitimator of carbon extraction in the West.
Like other Canadian think tanks, the Canada West Foundation relies on donations and sponsorships to operate. Supporters who gifted at least C$50,000 or more include Enbridge, the Government of Alberta and the Government of Manitoba. Oil companies Cenovus, Encana, Suncor and Shell Canada donated over C$25,000.1
Canada West identifies itself as a “non-partisan public policy think tank that focuses on the policies that shape the West, and by extension, Canada.”2 Canada West views private economic growth as the key determinant in shaping the West’s success. Its has three research “centres”—trade and investment, natural resources and human capital. Each provides a “work plan” detailing the various policy issues of concern.
For 2018, the Natural Resources Centre work plan featured research on how to get energy infrastructure built quickly and how to reduce the regulatory “burden” for industry.3 The Centre’s “patrons” include Cenovus, Enbridge, Encana and Suncor, all of which provided substantial funding for its research initiatives.4 In 2018 Canada West’s CEO, Martha Hall Findlay (a former federal Liberal MP), claimed that the recent bill reforming the Federal Energy Regulator—C-69—gives too much power to the environment minister.5In an interview with CBC’s Power and Politics, Hall Findlay noted that “we want to make sure that in terms of public policy we have public policies that are…the best possible for all of our natural resources.”6
The Foundation excels in its dissemination of policy ideas in the public sphere. Canada West utilizes digital media to spread its views, including blogs, podcasts and commentary. It also has an active mainstream media presence. In 2017, this included 77 op-eds in regional and national publications, such as the Globe and Mail.7 In one recent example, Hall Findlay penned an opinion piece critiquing the federal government for tabling a bill that would ban large oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s north coast.8
Conferences offer an avenue for Canada West to convene elite groups of industry and government officials, providing them with critical opportunities to shape policy in the interests of Canadian corporations. Calgary’s Energy Roundtable is one recent example. The 2017 event brought together leaders of many of the fossil fuel sector’s most influential firms, such as Encana, Suncor, TransAlta and LNG Canada, with members of government and representatives of organized labour to discuss Canada’s energy future. Canada West was a key “knowledge and network” partner.9
Learn more about Canada West Foundation at LittleSis.org
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.