Taking with one hand and giving back with the other. That is increasingly the situation in Canada, where governments are trying to address carbon emissions through carbon pricing and other measures while at the same time giving billions of dollars in public money to oil and gas companies. It is completely contradictory.

Sign outside the One Planet Summit in Paris


Together, federal and provincial governments hand out $3.3 billion in subsidies every year for oil and gas exploration and development. In 2016, Export Development Canada, a crown corporation, spent an additional $12 billion in public money to finance fossil fuel projects.

It’s like governments taxing cigarettes to deter smoking, and then handing out billions to cigarette companies.

Tell Canada to stop giving government money to fossil fuel companies

The message coming this week from 37 civil society groups is that Canada needs to get rid of these fossil fuel subsidies. The first step is for the federal government to be transparent about the number and amount of the subsidies, and that’s what the groups call for in an open letter sent Monday to the Prime Minister and several relevant ministers.

It comes at an opportune time. This week, French President Emmanuel Macron will host a climate change summit in Paris. The summit will focus on redirecting financing away from fossil fuels and towards climate solutions such as clean, renewable energy and green infrastructure. Over 50 presidents and prime ministers are expected at the Macron summit. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is representing Canada.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on a panel at Macron summit


Right now, there is a lot of international attention being paid to fossil fuel subsidies. Over 180 global groups asked G20 countries, including Canada, and development banks like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to stop subsidizing or financing fossil fuel companies.

Oil Change International also published a report documenting 12 nasty fossil fuel projects from around the world that benefit from public financing. One of them is Canada’s tar sands. On top of government subsidies, tar sands companies have received billions from Export Development Canada to undertake their environmentally destructive activities.

Enough with the contradictions. Canadian governments know that addressing climate change means transitioning away from fossil fuels…not giving them public money to expand operations. Tell the federal government to get rid of these subsidies by 2020 at the latest. This week is as good a time as any for the Canadian government to start that process.