The Trudeau government treated Donald Trump’s election as “positive news” for Canada’s energy industry and welcomed the help of Canada’s main corporate oil group in lobbying the US administration, documents show.

Meetings conducted by senior government officials with TransCanada and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reveal an one-sided approach more reminiscent of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s secret oil advocacy than Justin Trudeau’s green electoral promises.

The Liberal government has strongly backed the export of Alberta tar sands via the Keystone XL pipeline, which was initially rejected by the Obama administration on climate grounds but approved by Trump in March 2017.

The documents, obtained through access-to-information, show the Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister met around the same time with TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling and CAPP to discuss the continued promotion of the pipeline and oil exports.

The briefing note states that the oil lobby group “specifically will be interested to hear the outcomes of the recent visits by Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland to the United States, as well as volunteering their services (or those of members) in the Government’s U.S. engagement efforts.”

The Parliamentary Secretary was advised to respond by saying “we welcome your engagement offer and would like to stay in touch.”

The Guardian asked CAPP what kind of services they had volunteered but the lobby group declined to answer.

CAPP shares many members with its US-counterpart, the American Petroleum Institute, whose lobbying of the Trump administration has resulted in cuts to environmental regulations and the speed-up of permits for oil and gas drilling.

The briefing documents appear to present Trump’s approach to energy policy as an improvement over that of Obama’s.

“The swearing in of a new administration in the United States that recognizes the strategic importance of Canada’s role in North American energy security is, so far, positive news for the Canadian energy sector with regard to a potential increase in energy trade,” a document from May 2017 reads.

“The main guiding principle of President Trump’s energy policy is U.S. energy security independence through increasing domestic production of all energy forms (oil, gas coal and nuclear).”

The words “climate change” do not appear anywhere in the government documents.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government had previously worked closely with the oil industry lobby to undermine clean policy measures and encourage massive oil exports in the U.S. and Europe.

In contrast, Prime Minister Trudeau promised in his election platform to achieve an “ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement” that would make the continent the “world’s most efficient and responsible energy producer.”

“Canadians who voted for Trudeau probably didn’t expect him to use Trump’s election as an opportunity to bypass concerns over environmental protection and Indigenous rights,” said Keith Stewart, a senior energy analyst at Greenpeace who obtained the documents. “The Trudeau government’s abandonment of ambitious climate policy in dealing with Trump and their backroom outreach to oil lobbyists has more in common with the Harper government than the actions of a self-proclaimed climate champion.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

Trudeau has unreservedly supported Keystone XL, but the documents acknowledge that it faces opposition along its potential route, as protests and several lawsuits threaten to trip up TransCanada’s construction.

“Major resistance to the KXL project is occurring in South Dakota and Nebraska where farmers, indigenous groups, environmental groups and land owners are taking issue with the project,” one document says.

The Obama Administration rejected Keystone XL after a “climate test” found the shipping of 800,00 barrels of tar sands a day would undercut efforts to combat climate change.

Last week the British Columbia government moved to block the proposed west-ward Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion by introducing new oil-spill regulations, to which Alberta’s premier responded by announcing a boycott of BC’s wine.

Yesterday the Canadian government tabled legislation to overhaul environmental reviews of major resource projects. It has been praised for creating a new energy regulator and more opportunities for public participation, but concerns have been raised about restrictive assessments and a lack of safeguards against industry interests continuing to trump other considerations.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian.


This investigation was supported by the Corporate Mapping Project, a research and public engagement initiative investigating the power of the fossil fuel industry. The CMP is jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC and Saskatchewan offices, and the Parkland Institute, and is supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Author: Martin Lukacs