The Fraser Institute is a right-wing free-market think tank based in Vancouver, with offices in Calgary, Toronto and Montréal. In pursuing its mission to “improve the quality of life for Canadians,” 5 the Institute advocates for neoliberal economic policies through its in-house research and media commentary activities. Its materials are authored by academic researchers across North America, on topics ranging from state–Indigenous relations to conservative economics.
The Fraser Institute’s longstanding commitment to promoting natural resource development in Canada—in particular fossil fuels extraction—earns its designation as a key legitimator of carbon industries in Canada.
The Institute is a non-profit that holds charitable status in Canada (and the US), and it receives donations from individuals, organizations and foundations from across North America. In this sense, its control is less influenced by ownership relations than by those who support it financially. In 2016, 83 per cent of the Institute’s revenues came from individuals.1 Foundations also factor prominently in supporting the organization’s bottom line. They include the Charles Koch Foundation—known funder to organizations actively disseminating information denying climate change, such as the American Enterprise Institute, and whose namesake is known for his substantial fossil fuel investments and climate denialism.2 The Charles Koch Foundation donated over $1.4 million to the Institute from 1997 to 2017.3
The Fraser Institute presents as a think tank concerned with advancing the well-being of all Canadians. However, its prioritization of the free market as the primary solution to most social and economic problems, along with its vocal opposition to government regulation, demonstrates an ideological commitment to advancing the neoliberal interests of Canada’s economic elite.
Considering the prominence of carbon capital on its board of directors, it is no surprise that “Natural Resources” and “Environment” are key themes of its research and commentary programs. Over 100 research reports have been published on these topics since the mid-1990s. Recent research includes cost-benefit evaluations of the various climate action plans, and the ranking of different provinces’ attractiveness for oil and gas investment—both of which deride government involvement in regulating the fossil fuel industries, while largely ignoring the environmental imperatives for doing so.
Most commentary is published in corporate mass media and is used to disseminate the Institute’s ideologically driven research through wide-reaching and seemingly neutral outlets. However, this has resulted in misrepresentation of the reality facing Canada as it works to transition away from fossil fuel dependency. As the CBC reported in 2015, the Fraser Institute blamed Alberta’s poor economic position on government spending, not on the more accurate cause—the declining value of Canadian oil.4
Learn more about Fraser Institute 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.