A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. International trade experts say it’s a pipe dream to think the landlocked oil-producing western provinces would have an easier time getting their product to international markets if they were to split from Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Fossil fuel industry tops the list of lobbyist groups in Ottawa: report

Report recommends creating office to advocate for climate change action

The fossil fuel industry’s lobbying transcends governments and is more common than that of other groups, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests.

The report, released Tuesday by the left-leaning Ottawa-based think tank, looked at lobbying of the federal government by the fossil fuels field between 2o11 and 2018.

Nicolas Graham, co-author and University of Victoria lecturer, said the time range helped researchers compare the lobbying of government under two different prime ministers: Conservative Stephen Harper and Liberal Justin Trudeau.

Oil and gas lobbyists focused on elected officials more under Harper, and more on senior public servants or mid-level staff when Trudeau was in office.

Graham said that could be because a Conservative government is typically more sympathetic to oil and gas interests.

“The main people to be targeted are people who are seen as allies or closely on board, or people who are potentially fence-sitting.”

When the Liberals took over, the oil and gas lobby continued targeting bureaucrats with whom it already had a connection, he said.

The report was part of the Corporate Mapping Project, which looks at the fossil fuel industry’s influence and compares it to three other industries – automotive industry, forestry and renewable energy – as well as to environmental groups.

“We did find that the fossil fuel industry was the far most active lobbyist,” he said, adding that organization calling for action on climate change were lobbying five times less.

“It is a very powerful economic sector,” he said. “There are also really high stakes for [that] industry at this point in time, around climate action questions, so they’re particularly active in lobbying.”

The current federal lobbyist’s registry is a good first step, he added, but it could be better if it had more information, such as finances and what’s discussed at meetings.

“We think that shining a light on lobbying a little bit more could be a way of limiting corporate influence and limiting the sense of backroom dealing.”

A watchdog-type model could help level the playing field, he suggested, and address how the system favours corporations.

READ MORE: ‘It’s terrifying’: B.C. teen leads effort to fight climate change

READ MORE: Oil would still be landlocked under ‘Wexit,’ experts say


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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