With Gerald Butts and others at the epicentre of power, it’s no wonder the oil industry has plummeted into purgatory
Canadians watch Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election comfortable in the belief that such foreign interference couldn’t happen here.
Except it did happen here.
And while the Russians adamantly deny interference in American political affairs, the perpetrators of interference in the 2015 Canadian federal election not only devised and executed a plan aimed at helping to elect the party friendly to their cause, they publicly trumpeted their success in achieving just that. And then they got a huge bonus when one of their most fervent comrades was appointed to the most powerful non-elected position in the country.
This story has all the elements of a fiction novel. But it’s not fiction.
Piece by meticulously researched piece, independent researcher Vivian Krause spent almost 10 years unveiling the information. Every detail has been corroborated by sources, including American and Canadian tax records, together with documents and statements from the perpetrators themselves.
The story begins in 2008, when a group of radical American anti-fossil-fuel environmental organizations created Tar Sands Campaign Strategy 2.1 designed “to landlock the Canadian oilsands by delaying or blocking the expansion or development of key pipelines.”
A list of key strategic targets included: “educating and organizing First Nations to challenge construction of pipelines across their traditional territories” and bringing “multiple actions in Canadian federal and provincial courts.” A “raising the negatives” section includes recruiting celebrity spokespersons such as Leonardo DiCaprio to “lend their brand to opponents of tar sands and generating a high negative media profile for tar sands oil.”
Executing such a massive intrusion into Canadian affairs would take years and a large amount of money. Ironically, much of that anti-oil money came from the legacy of the man who founded the U.S. oil industry, John D. Rockefeller. Joining the Rockefeller Foundation were the two legacy foundations of Hewlett-Packard co-founders William Hewlett and David Packard.
These foundations, together with other American anti-fossil-fuel charities, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S.-based Tides Foundation, a murky organization that serves as a legal money launderer, receiving donations from other foundations and redistributing the funds without revealing sources.
Since American and Canadian tax laws require charities to document receipt and disbursement of funds, Krause was able to gather irrefutable evidence that tens of millions of dollars were transferred from Tides U.S. to its Tides Canada subsidiary. Moreover, the resourceful Krause obtained 70 covering letters showing recipients and use of the funds.
The largest portion the funds were directed at raising fears of oil spills among First Nations, including seven payments to help build “indigenous solidarity resistance to pipeline routes,” maintain “opposition to oil tankers” and to “provide legal support for actions constraining tar sands development.”
Funding also went to the Great Bear Initiative to build support for designating the so-called Spirit Bear habitat a nature reserve. Those initiatives resulted in the successful court appeal by First Nations suspending approval by the former government of Stephen Harper of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Then came Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lamentable decision to disallow oil pipelines through the Great Bear Rainforest, along with a north-coast tanker ban, driving the final nails into the coffin of Northern Gateway.
Other payments include: the Pembina Institute to “advance … the narrative that oil sands expansion is problematic;” Greenpeace Canada “for events to show opposition to pipelines and tar sands expansion;” the Living Oceans Society “to build opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline” and Forest Ethics “to conduct education and outreach opposing the Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway pipelines.”
The American anti-oilsands funding didn’t stop at encouraging opposition to oil pipelines. The Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative, one of the most politically active organizations in the country, received millions of dollars from Tides Canada to run get-the-vote out campaigns in the 2017 B.C. provincial election, including deployment of thousands of campaign workers in Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver’s riding. Without his election, the anti-Trans Mountain NDP/Green coalition wouldn’t have gained power.
At the federal level, money was funnelled directly to campaign activists working to help the Liberals win the 2015 election. Vancouver based non-profit society Leadnow, directly and through the B.C.-based Sisu Institute, received more than $1 million from Tides Canada with the express objective of defeating the pro-oil industry Harper Conservatives. The society claims its campaigners helped defeat Conservative candidates in 25 ridings.
Given that no new export pipelines have been built in the 10 years since their anti-oilsands campaign began, one must conclude that the American organizations have been spectacularly successful. But all that funding directed at First Nations and other anti-pipeline activist campaigns wouldn’t have been nearly so effective without the election of an ideologically anti-fossil-fuel government in Ottawa.
Until recently, the anti-tar sands website contained the following statement by campaign quarterback Michael Marx: “The controversy from the campaign contributed to political victories at the provincial and national level in 2015 and led to bold climate commitments by Canadian leaders.” Realizing the implications of Marx’s statement, it was removed following a revealing expose aired in the Jan. 20 edition of CBC’s The Weekly hosted by Wendy Mesley. It’s very much worth watching.
Election of the anti-fossil fuel Trudeau government would have been ample cause for a victory celebration. But the campaigners received a bonus beyond their wildest dreams when one of their most dedicated eco-warriors was appointed principal secretary to the prime minister, the most powerful post in the prime minister’s office. From 2008 to 2012, Gerald Butts was president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF), an important Tides campaign partner.
Butts used his position in the PMO to bring other former campaigners with him. Mario Reynolds, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s chief of staff, is past executive director of the Pembina Institute, recipient of substantial Tides funding. Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi’s chief of staff is also a former WWF Canada official and Sarah Goodman, policy adviser to the prime minister, is a former VP of Tides Canada.
With these people at the epicentre of power, it’s no wonder the oil industry, and the hundreds of thousands of people it employed, has plummeted into political and policy purgatory.
Now Butts, the mastermind behind that economic, social and national unity disaster, has resigned. But there’s more disturbing news. I was startled to learn that Butts received two separate payments from WWF Canada totalling $361,642 during his first two years at the PMO.
In a May 26, 2016 tweet to a question from Krause, Butts responds: “It was my contract severance.”
Over my entire career leading one of Canada’s largest companies and serving as a director of four others, I have never heard of severance paid when someone decided to quit their job. But then, given that he was receiving those payments from WWF Canada while at the PMO, one might conclude that he never really changed jobs. He just combined the old and new ones together.
That, fellow Canadians, is the story that never could have been told without the determination of a real Canadian patriot who dedicated 10 years searching for the truth.
By Gwyn Morgan
Gwyn Morgan is a retired Canadian business leader who has been a director of five global corporations.