It’s time for another round-up summarizing lobbying by Canada’s oil and gas industry of the federal government. The most recent complete month of data is for December 2022. It was a relatively quiet month given the holidays, but the industry wasn’t inactive.
The oil and gas industry’s lobbyists met with federal government officials a minimum of 94 times in December. That’s almost five times per working day that government officials took meetings from an industry trying to delay climate action and get more subsidies, at a time when they are making record profits.
The most striking activity in December was from Irving Oil, the company that dominates New Brunswick. Irving, which rarely cracks into the top three busiest lobbyists in the industry, had a whopping 31 meetings with federal officials in December. For those who don’t know, Irving Oil is the dominant energy company in the Maritimes. The oil company is owned by a powerful family dynasty that controls much of New Brunswick’s economy. In Saint John, the company operates the largest oil refinery in Canada.
Irving held meetings with officials from several different ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Finance Canada (FIN), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and of course industry’s most targeted ministry, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
What were they lobbying for? Were they thinking ahead to the upcoming federal budget and asking for money? Were they pushing their newest greenwashing schemes, including a hydrogen project? Or were they trying to weaken climate policies, like carbon pricing or the proposed caps on emissions from the oil and gas sector, which may or may not apply to refining projects like Irving’s?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know what was discussed in these meetings. It is not made public and can only partially be uncovered eventually through access to information requests. The Hill Times even asked Irving Oil what their lobbying priorities were, but they didn’t get a response.
Here are the other highlights from the month.
WHO LOBBIED THE MOST
The companies that held the most lobbying meetings with the federal government in November 2022 were:
- Irving Oil, with 31 meetings
- Pembina Pipeline, with 13 meetings
- Pathways Alliance, with 8 meetings
WHO WAS LOBBIED THE MOST
The federal bodies which took the most meetings with oil & gas companies and associations were, once again, the following Ministries:
- Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), took 15 meetings
- Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), took 13 meetings
- Finance Canada, took 13 meetings
WHY THESE NUMBERS MATTER
Politicians and Ministry staff don’t have to take these meetings, but they choose to hear from fossil fuel lobbyists.
The numbers here are under-counts because, while we are tracking over 50 companies and lobby associations, there are even more companies which may engage in lobbying.
In addition, not all meetings and communications that we might consider to be “lobbying” are not required to be disclosed because of huge loopholes in the federal lobbying law. Lobbyists are only required to register and disclose their lobbying if they are paid on a contract to lobby or are lobbying more than 20 percent of their work time for a business or organization. As well, lobbying about the enforcement of a law or regulation, or about tax credits, which many oil and gas companies lobby for, is not required to be disclosed.
Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), such as Environmental Defence, lobby, but do so in the public interest, not in the private interest, as oil and gas companies do. ENGOs are granted far less access to key government decision-makers.
We need to tell politicians to stand firm on the need for strong climate action, like implementing a hard cap on oil & gas industry emissions, and not handing out subsidies to these companies.
Until next month’s update, follow the lobby bot on Twitter here.