Wendy Mesley interviews Vivian Krause and Tzeporah Berman – Jan 20th, 2019
The Weekly with Wendy Mesley (CBC TV Jan. 20th, 2019) opens with a short video discussing the history of the Rockefeller oil empire, and its eventual endowment of the philanthropic – and many would say activist -- Rockefeller Brothers Fund Inc., an instrumental leadership group and co-founder of the anti-oil sands effort known as the Tar Sands Campaign.
Mesley’s reporting quickly turns to a short overview of the tax returns uncovered by researcher and writer Vivian Krause who has tracked large sums of US dollars as they move from American philanthropic and activist foundations to environmental groups in Canada, much of it in opposition to the oil sands and all new pipeline construction.
NOTE: The time-stamp references in this viewers guide are keyed to the following clip:
00:40 seconds: Tar Sands Campaign - Supporting Foundations
Mesley’s coverage of the US$900-million Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as the “deep-pocketed” Hewlett Foundation and Tides, represents some solid, Krause-inspired research. Mesley explains that Rockefeller Brothers Fund Inc. and Hewlett were among the foundations that established and then led the Tar Sands Campaign and contributed some millions of dollars, through Tides and other avenues to demarket Canada’s oil sands.
01:30 seconds: CorpEthics - Boasting about Landlocking Canadian Oil
Mesley points to a statement that Vivian has identified often in the past – that the US activist group Corporate Ethics has boasted on its own website that it had “from the very beginning” attempted to landlock oils sands crude, and further that it had “caused political victories at the provincial and national level in Canada.”
(Once the spotlight of Mesley’s “The Weekly” program was shone on the above-mentioned two statements that it had “from the very beginning” attempted to land-lock oils sands crude, and that it had influenced Canadian elections, both statements were quickly deleted from the Corporate Ethics website. After all, Canadians generally don’t appreciate US interests manipulating either our public or private sectors. For a US NGO to boast it had successfully manipulated both is bound to be viewed by Canadians with significant disdain – hence the web deletions.)
Vivian Krause Makes Her Case
- See more of Vivian's Research at Fair Questions
02:00 seconds: A Devastating Foreign-Funded Campaign
Next, Mesley introduces Vivian who provides strong answers to questions targeting her independence, and her simple desire for Alberta to be treated fairly in the Canadian energy debate. Among other things, Vivian states:
“The (so-called Tar Sands) campaign has been devastating. Every single Canadian pipeline proposal has been sabotaged by this campaign…“
As a result, Krause explains the Canadian provinces that relish Alberta’s significant contributions to federal transfers are only hurting themselves when they refuse to accept new pipelines within their provincial boundaries.
03:15 seconds: Is Vivian Krause Biased?
In response to a challenge that Vivian, for having identified US$40 million in funds for over 100 Canadian environmentalist and First Nation groups to oppose energy-related projects, is biased in favour of the Alberta energy sector, she responds:
“All of us are concerned about the environment and especially the climate impacts of using fossil fuels.”
While Mesley points out that Vivian has identified fully US$1.7 million from US activist funder Tides to Canadian environmental groups involved in just one application to a federal court opposing a single pipeline project, there is simply no justification in labelling Vivian as biased. Courageous? Sure. Truthful? Absolutely. Biased? No.
In response to the claim she is profiting from the oil industry, Vivian is utterly transparent about her total fees to date earned from making presentations to energy sector personnel – a modest $220,000 over seven years, for an average annual compensation of $31,000.
Vivian adds that US activist philanthropic funds have allowed an unprecedented level of coordinated anti-pipeline opposition to enter the Canadian energy discussion and, in turn, has raised the environmentalists profile through richly-funded strategic protest and highly effective media relations.
Krause: "This campaign takes credit for generating more than a thousand news stories,” Vivian points out.
03:55 seconds: Paid Protestors, a Big Difference
Krause: “Behind the protests are paid organizers – that’s the difference today… The whole campaign is not helping the environment... Benching Canada -- bullying Canada out of the oil market -- doesn’t keep a single barrel in the ground – it just means that another country produces the oil."
“Investment in the Canadian oil sector is down by tens of billions of dollars… That money is now going into the US oil industry."
Overall, Vivian’s views are given a balanced airing through her segment. In our view however, Tzeporah Berman’s comments require some additional analysis. That analysis follows below.
Tzeporah Berman Gives Her Own Views
Mesley then turns to Berman for her own views of the discussion. Some of her comments require some clarification in terms of what Tzeporah has previously said, as we feel Canadians deserve that context to understand this debate.
Of the fact Vivian has identified tens of millions of dollars in US funds to Canadian activist entities in order to land-lock Canadian oil within our borders, Berman claims “tens of millions of dollars is a drop in the bucket.”
06:04 seconds: A Drop in the Bucket
Berman: “…That it’s tens of millions of dollars, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the oil industry and the Alberta and federal governments have been spending to try and convince Canadians that the sky will fall if we don’t build these pipelines.”
Berman should know a majority of Canadians support pipelines, including a majority of Premiers in Canada outside of British Columbia. (Even in BC, the majority of citizens support pipelines. In fact, only Quebec is offside on this measure.) Apparently, Berman thinks the coordinated effort to block all Canadian pipelines doesn’t have to adhere to the same standards of truth that government and industry must follow.
The fact is industry provides billions of dollars annually in government revenues to support our citizens’ quality of life. Further, our energy products are produced to the highest environmental standards in the world – a world in which global oil demand is still growing.
Indeed, money invested in government advertising is the real “drop in the bucket” compared to the enormous economic value the oil and gas industry delivers to the rest of the country. According to Natural Resources Canada, in 2017 Canada’s energy sector accounted for nearly 10.6 percent of the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) – or $213 billion. Further, trade of energy products accounted for 22 percent of total Canadian good exports the same year ($112.6 billion). Canada’s natural resources are a crucial part of our economy.
In terms of the sustainability of the Canadian economy, Berman may claim the sky isn’t falling. But there is little doubt Canadian competitiveness and Canadian investments are both falling significantly, thanks in part to the fact our energy resources are unable to reach the global market, according to most observers.
As the economy loses up to $100 million per day due to a lack of pipeline capacity, and as we are forced to sell all our oil and gas to the US at heavily discounted prices (in 2017, the USA accounted for 91 percent of energy exports by value), many Canadian families are in real financial distress. The significant loss to Canada’s economy is also a lost of Canadian job opportunities and prosperity for the entire country from coast-to-coast.
Berman: “And, I understand that Albertan families are worried…”
Berman and her colleagues take credit for blocking pipelines and reducing investor interest in Alberta, which has unquestionably led to catastrophic job losses and damage to the economy. By extension, she may wish to take credit, also, for the predictable knock-on effects that result from an ailing economy, such as increases in bankruptcy, foreclosure, crime and other social ailments. Without question, people are frustrated.
A central feature of the anti-pipeline campaign is the fact it’s built on a shaky foundation of misinformation and fear. Berman’s pride in her own effectiveness runs counter to her empty statement that she “understand(s) that Alberta families are worried.” An Angus Reid Poll in January 2019 seems to indicate the anti-pipeline campaign is effective, and we’d add that her own campaign is likely the key to why “Albertans feel” such a degree of worry. For her to pretend to sympathise with Albertans’ economic fears is pure, cynical showmanship.
If Berman truly cared about both the environment and resource-dependent Canadian families, she’d champion Canadian energy exports because of our demonstrated track record of leadership in:
- environmental standards and collaboration
- human rights protections
- commitment to human safety
- sustainability regulation
- commitments to clean technology
- renewable energy investment and production
- social progress
- rule of law
- media freedom
...to name a few examples.
06:43 seconds: Canadian Governments Spending Too Much
Berman: “Last year, the Alberta Government spent $23 million of taxpayer’s money on ads, to try and convince people that we must build the Trans Mountain pipeline.”
The reality is the energy sector employs citizens from across the nation and generates vast government revenues to support, among many other things:
- social services
- community programs
- roads and highways
- health services
- art programs
- Stars AIR ambulance
...and aspects of our non-profit sector.
Back in 2016, when investment in the oil and gas sector was dwindling due to strangulating policies from provincial and federal governments as well as a lack of new pipeline capacity, government energy revenues totalled $10.3 billion. An economy is built on industry, and investment in our industries supports Canadian governments and Canadian families. To borrow Berman’s words, government investment in industry, in comparison to the real benefits industry provides for all Canadians, really is just a “drop in the bucket."
Berman displays her years of media training midway through her interview with Mesley, where she sidesteps a direct question with all the slickness and deception of a confident trickster.
07:15 seconds: Question About Past Affiliations
Mesley: “You until recently were a part of a group that was advising the Alberta government, Premier Rachel Notley, on issues like these. Did the fact that there is American funding to your group and many others, did that help raise your profile or to make your argument louder in front of a government group. Did American funding help your cause?”
Berman’s shameless, obfuscating response illustrates why she’s the toast of the anti-pipeline rabble. Never one to argue with her US funders about whether US foundations deserve credit for land-locking our product, instead Berman changes the subject.
Berman: “What raised our profile the most was the aggressive attacks, initially by the Harper government on the environmental community, on science, and their claim that they were going to triple the size of the oil sands. That’s part of what raised awareness, then I think then if you look at more recent pipeline campaigns, it’s indigenous leadership…”
Indigenous leadership? Berman, as one might expect, fails to mention the leadership of roughly 70 percent of the First Nations involved in the Northern Gateway pipeline. And she omits mention of about 43 First Nations along the TransMountain pipeline route, which represents a majority of communities along the route. Further, she fails to point to the leadership of all 20 First Nations along the route that support the project and have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink.
Critical Background on the Tar Sands Campaign
The US-organized Tar Sands Campaign to block Canadian pipelines was conceived around 2007. Canada’s been the only top-10 oil exporter with carbon pricing initiatives since 2007 -- further proof this campaign is not about the global environment where oil demand has grown since 2007 by more than 13 million barrels per day, but instead only about land-locking Canadian oil.
Canada’s the only top 10 oil exporter w/ carbon pricing initiatives applicable to oil production, since 2007.— Oil Sands Action (@OilsandsAction) July 18, 2018
Canada’s also the only top 10 oil exporter where every new pipeline has been obstructed by big green groups since 2007.
Who wins when @Pembina landlocks Canadian oil? pic.twitter.com/oQC10l8Nrp
As the US and many other countries vastly increasing their own production while they face no opposition from these activist groups and paid protestors, it’s no wonder we’re cynical about the goals of the campaign. Jason Mogus, a leader of the tar sands campaign, explains it himself in this job posting advertisement:
Canada Action Calls for a Balanced Conversation
There’s nothing “green” nor “peaceful” in opposing Canadian energy, which stands as a prime example of global best practices in the environment, human rights, innovation and technology. Once again, we call on activist opponents to the sector to engage in a balanced conversation.
Such a balanced conversation should at least reference the often-stated views of Indigenous leaders like Ellis Ross, Calvin Helin, Ernie Crey, Roy Fox and others who have referred to the American-based attack on Canada’s pipelines as an attack on their communities’ quality of life and their aspirations as First Nations peoples, while activists ignore pipeline expansion in their own American backyard.
US sends $$$ into Canada to stop oil and gas, then the US buys our oil and gas at discount and our govts assist them in bashing Canadian resources. Is this really the way Canada is run? https://t.co/LSJk1g1fzl— Ellis Ross (@ellisbross) February 8, 2019
Proposing energy infrastructure means engaging with the public at large, working through the entire regulatory process and ensuring all First Nations and other stakeholders can participate in a meaningful way. Berman and her fellow anti-pipeline campaigners are held to a much lower standard; they fail to take into account the views of all First Nations, but instead they cherry-pick the Indigenous messages that support their campaign – and sometimes even reference exclusively the First Nations that have themselves received funds from US foundations that support the Tar Sands campaign and her own group.
Our view is that by touting Indigenous sovereignty while ignoring the vast majority of First Nations actively encouraging the construction of these projects, Berman puts on public view the fact her own track record on assisting Indigenous communities in lifting themselves out of generations of widespread poverty is sorely lacking.
Mesley: “What do you think of her [Vivian Krause’s] argument that this American funding of one side of this debate is dividing Canadians, that it’s making this debate even more intense, with an election year coming, Canadians are divided on this?”
Berman: “I think that the debate is intense because of all these proposals. You know, she talks about how 10 years ago there wasn’t this campaign, well ten years ago there weren’t these pipeline proposals.”
Berman claims the debate is so intense - not because of her deep-pocketed US backers but “because of all these proposals” for new pipelines. Yet she has opposed every pipeline proposal in the past, and has failed to mention a SINGLE pipeline proposal she might support in future in order to allow Canadian energy resources to global markets.
Further, it should be noted that both the TransCanada Keystone and the Enbridge Alberta Clipper were completed in 2010, more than a decade ago. In fact, the Northern Gateway concept was formally announced in 2004. Additionally, there was massive and long-standing investment in the oil sands much, much earlier than that. So her view that these proposals didn’t even exist ten years ago and then arrived all at once - is simply false.
Worse still, Berman continues to ignore the fact Canada has been forced to import billions of dollars of oil from foreign suppliers with inferior standards for environmental protection, a point she and her groups continue to ignore. Oil demand and pipeline construction are growing worldwide, while her focus remains solely on Canada, a supplier of the very highest standards.
Time to Build a New Economy? What?
Berman: “… It’s time to build a new economy, and that means not spending literally billions of taxpayer’s dollars to buy pipelines and do ad campaigns. It means we should be spending that money now, at home on a plan for jobs in the new economy.”
Berman knows global oil demand is growing, and that every year a portion of the world’s oil production will decline and will require replacement. She knows Canada is the only top-ten oil exporter with carbon pricing initiatives, and that it’s a world leader in clean energy and environmental protection.
She’s doubtless also aware LNG Canada will be the lowest emitting facility in the world by 20 percent, and that one BC LNG plant could displace up to 40 coal-fired power plants in Asia, thus reducing global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, an amount greater than BC’s total emissions and roughly ten percent of Canada’s GHG emissions per annum.
Canada's Already a World Leader
She also knows that if Canadian standards were recognized and applied worldwide, the amount of GHG emissions from producing a barrel of oil would fall by 23 percent, the equivalent of removing about 100 million cars from the world’s roads. She’s fully aware Canada’s economic advantage is its natural resources.
She continues to say she cares about the environment, yet she restricts her attack to Canadian energy exports, most often through her tactics laid out above, focussing on fear and misdirection and financed for decades by the above-mentioned US foundations.
Stand.Earth Uses a Photo of a Burning Iranian Oil Tanker
For example, a few months ago, Stand.earth, where Berman is the International Program Director, featured a picture on its web site of an Iranian oil tanker that had collided with a freighter off the coast of China. In a massive misrepresentation of the truth, this group, once known ironically as ForestEthics, attempted to protest oil sands tankers delivering product to California by featuring this spurious image.
Meanwhile the existing TransMountain pipeline, Canada’s only operating pipeline to the west coast, has in some 60 years of operation never experienced a land or marine marine incident even remotely comparable to her hyped-up Chinese photograph. Every Canadian should find this tactic truly offensive.
Contrary to the picture her group attempts to draw about Canada, our country supplied only 3.44 percent of Californian oil imports in 2017. Further, it adhered then – as now - to some of the highest production and transmission standards of environmental protection, safety and human rights on the planet.
The Bottom Line:
A tenet of critical thought is questioning information you learn from slick campaigns supported by foreign interests. We want readers to be aware global demand for oil and natural gas is forecast to grow for decades to come. If we all care about climate change and the environment as much as Berman claims she does, we should all want to increase Canada’s global market share of oil and gas.
As one of the most transparent, closely regulated and environmentally-friendly petroleum producers in the world, Canada has earned the right to be the last supplier out of the pool of countries satisfying global demand. Genuinely concerned environmentalists should champion Canadian energy exports rather that attack Canadian communities - including Indigenous communities – and resource-dependent families. Any thinking environmentalist ought to oppose imports from supplier countries that make a mockery of Canada’s world-leading high standards of environmental, safety and human rights.