“Axis of Oil” Poses Significant Problems and Questions for Canada

Prime Minister’s Focus on Money and Markets Ignores Issues of Energy and National Security, Human Rights, Syria, and More

Elizabeth May, Green Party MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, held a media conference in Ottawa today to outline her serious concerns about the federal government’s growing dependence on foreign money and influence in the oil sands and elsewhere – especially in light of Stephen Harper’s tour of China.


“We are being told that the Harper government’s almost-desperate attempts to lure foreign money to Canada is business as usual, bringing needed investment, but there is much more at stake which requires public discussion,” said May.  “In fact, what I now call the China-Harper Axis of Oil has so many negative repercussions; I have had to prepare a short list, including everything from job loss to Syria.

“Canadians simply cannot and should not make the dramatic economic and social shifts Harper is aggressively orchestrating without more information.”

  1. The oil and gas sector already has nearly two times the amount of foreign investment compared to the average in other areas of our economy with twice the percentage of profits leaving Canada. 
  2. Concerning Chinese oil sands investments, estimates vary because of the lack of transparency, but it’s at least $12 billion and as much as $20 billion.  State-owned Sinopec, China`s second-largest oil producer and top refiner, is part of a consortium that has provided about $100 million to fund the Enbridge pipeline-and-tanker scheme`s regulatory and development costs in exchange for guaranteed shipment on the pipeline and an equity stake.
  3. During the 2008 federal election campaign, Stephen Harper promised he wouldn’t export raw crude to countries with weaker environmental standards than Canada, protecting Canadian jobs.  With the Enbridge pipeline-and-tanker proposal, it has been estimated that more than 26,000 jobs will be lost because the bitumen will be refined in China, not Canada.
  4. Not only jobs will be lost, but energy security and even national sovereignty are at stake.  As Anthony Campbell, former head of the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat of the Privy Council Office, has pointed out:  “We are sitting ducks.”  We are losing our ability to control the oil sands and our energy future.  For example, when China’s state-owned enterprise Sinopec bought minority shares in Syncrude in 2010, it got the right to veto any Syncrude decision to keep jobs, upgrading, and refining in Canada. (See Terry Glavin’s article, Defenceless, in the Ottawa Citizen, Saturday, February 4.)
  5. Even Enbridge has admitted that its pipeline will be of no benefit to Canada if it doesn’t secure the so-called “Asian Premium” – a higher crude price.  Economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Robyn Allan stated in her submission to the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel:  “The upshot is that Canadian refinery demand … will have its market price determined as if the transactions for Canadian crude oil supply and demand take place in the Asian market.”  This will mean, says Allan, “a decrease in family purchasing power, higher prices for industries who use oil as an input … a decline in real GDP, decline in government revenues, increase in inflation and an increase in interest rates and further appreciation of the Canadian dollar.”
  6. Canada will slowly become a petro state with all the negatives we’ve witnessed around the world.  Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk has written that Canada is moving in that direction.  He warns:  “Oil exporting nations, which run on oil loot instead of taxes, don`t function like real governments because over time they come to represent hydrocarbons the way plantation economies once championed slaveholders. Ultimately, most petro states, from Russia to Saudi Arabia, fear dissent, transparency, fair markets and good governance.”
  7. The absurdity of so-called “Ethical Oil” is made transparent when you consider our increased, unquestioning partnership with China.  After all, China is also working closely with Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.  This fact also makes a mockery of any government concerns about “foreign” influence among opponents of the Enbridge/China pipeline.


The above raises the following questions:

  1. When China has access to more and more of our crude oil, it will be able to provide jobs and produce cheaper consumer goods for its people.  Why isn’t Harper doing for Canada what the Chinese government is doing for China?
  2. How can Canada raise issues like human rights abuses in China and elsewhere when so many of our future development eggs are in the Chinese basket?  How can we strongly and credibly criticize China for its refusal to support the UN Resolution on Syria, for example?
  3. Of course, the background to all my concerns is the fact that the planet is warming almost visibly.  The PM’s position in Durban was to reject the one legally binding instrument, the Kyoto Protocol, insisting we would only join in to an agreement that included China.  China, already having done more on climate change than Canada, insisted it would only take on targets if and when countries, such as Canada, signed up for a second commitment period under Kyoto.  Is the PM using his trip to China to take a substantial step to global climate action by committing to China that we will withdraw our letter of intent to withdraw from Kyoto?
  4. Finally, I remember the time when Trudeau created Petro-Canada and its office in Calgary was referred to as Red Square.  Some Canadians were upset by Trudeau’s moves to nationalize our oil resources, but at least the nation that would have benefitted was Canada. Now, instead of Petro-Canada, it’s Petro-China, and instead of Ottawa nationalizing the Canadian oil and gas industry, it’s Beijing doing the nationalizing.