Alberta is in the final days before an election and the backbone industry of its economy is practically broken because all pipeline projects out of the province have been stalled or ended. This didn’t happen for no reason. This was planned and is precisely what a Rockefeller Brothers Fund campaign was funded to bring about.
The Tar Sands Campaign has been running for more than a decade with financial help from the US$870-million Rockefeller family philanthropic foundation. The goal of the campaign, as CBC reported in January, is to sabotage all pipeline projects that would export crude oil from Western Canada to lucrative overseas markets.
Northern Gateway, Energy East, Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Line 3 have all been targeted. Most of the talk about this campaign has focused on how this activism chokes the oil industry, but tax documents indicate it also takes aim at natural gas.
The reason Alberta needs pipelines is so that local producers aren’t forced to sell only into the U.S. market, often at a steep discount. As it is, Alberta forfeits billions of dollars in lost royalties and revenue because there’s no infrastructure for getting large volumes of oil to overseas markets where buyers pay more.
Canadian producers are stuck selling into the United States for whatever they get, but if Alberta is ever going to complete a new pipeline or extend an existing one, it needs a premier who has the courage and the ability to stand up to the Rockefellers and bring the Tar Sands Campaign to an end.
Until very recently, I was convinced that Premier Rachel Notley was sincere and committed to leading Canada into the global oil market, a daunting challenge for any politician because it means breaking the U.S. monopoly that has kept Canada over a barrel while benefiting U.S. interests to the tune of billions.
But now, sad to say, it is clear to me that Notley will never do what is necessary for any Alberta pipeline project to go ahead. My opinion changed because of an email sent by Leadnow, an anti-pipeline activist, on April 1, and forwarded to me on April 3.
By way of background, it bears mention that I have been working since July 2018 with Notley’s government to provide information and assist her team in taking the necessary steps to break the pipeline gridlock.
On April 1, Leadnow forwarded an undated email sent out by Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, a non-profit advocacy group.
The email states: “We’re going into our fourth week of digital door knocking and text banking and it has been incredible. We can talk to a lot of voters in very little time and we’ve identified thousands of supporters that we will be getting out to the polls.”
Does this explain why Notley refuses to stand up to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund?
The email also explained what Progress Alberta is doing to defeat Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party: “We’re holding texting parties every week in the lead up to the election, where we text thousands of voters across the province to make sure they don’t vote for Kenney’s UCP.”
Contacted by phone and via Twitter on April 3, Kinney did not deny that the email forwarded by Leadnow was sent by him. Leadnow’s executive director did not reply to tweets about this matter.
Both Leadnow and Progress Alberta are partially funded — US$62,843 (2016-2017) and US$162,587 (2013-2016), respectively — by the Tar Sands Campaign, U.S. tax returns show.
At the same time that Leadnow forwarded Kinney’s email to Leadnow’s supporters, Logan McIntosh, an executive director noted that Leadnow would not be directly involved in the election, but suggested, “With the election just two weeks away, will you sign up to join Progress Alberta’s campaign to stop Kenney?”
By encouraging supporters to join Progress Alberta, Leadnow effectively joined the campaign against the UCP.
Leadnow was created as part of the Strategic Incubation program of a Rockefeller-funded U.S. organization called the Online Progressive Engagement Network.
Put another way, Rockefeller-supported organizations are helping to defeat the UCP, the only political party in the Alberta election that is committed to breaking the U.S. monopoly on Alberta’s overseas oil exports.
Does this explain why Notley refuses to stand up to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and its campaign to landlock Canadian oil? Is this why Notley has rarely if ever publicly mentioned the Rockefeller-funded Tar Sands Campaign? These are fair questions.
So far, I have not found any record of Notley saying anything against the brazen involvement in the election by groups whose explicit goal, landlocking Alberta crude, is squarely against her province’s economic interests. Notley is turning a blind eye, or she knows about it and doesn’t care. Or worse yet, she consents.
Notley did address the activism against Alberta when she became premier in 2015 — or so it seemed. Her Climate Leadership Plan, introduced in November that year, included everything activists had demanded: she increased the carbon tax and capped allowable emissions.
The Tar Sands Campaign called the plan “a huge step forward,” so hopes were high that Alberta would finally break the gridlock that keeps Canada benched out of global energy markets. But no.
Far from letting up, activism against Alberta pipelines raged on and the U.S. funding continued. Rockefeller’s most recent payment on record was US$200,000 in May 2018 to New Venture Fund, based in Washington, D.C. New Venture has funded at least 10 Canadian environmental groups involved in the Tar Sands Campaign, including the Pembina Institute, Sierra Club BC and Living Oceans Society.
Also in May, the Notley government created the world’s largest boreal forest preserve. It’s huge, twice the size of Vancouver Island. Surely the campaign against Alberta would finally be over. But, again, no.
Back in 2010, when the Tar Sands Campaign was first reported in The Financial Post, there was virtually no information about it. The Rockefeller funding behind the campaign only came to light because of three little words, “Tar Sands Campaign,” that I noticed quite unexpectedly in the course of other work. I soon realized that the same foundations that had brought the salmon farming industry to its knees were turning their attention to Alberta oil.
More information about the campaign has since become publicly available. One source is a report on a 2010 workshop held in Tofino, B.C. In this document, Michael Marx, the Tar Sands Campaign’s long-time director, said, “The campaign is about trying to persuade business to stop establishing offices in the province (of Alberta).” Sure enough, that is what has happened.
At some point in 2016 or 2017, Marx posted a description of the Tar Sands Campaign on the website of his organization, Corporate Ethics International (CorpEthics). One sentence jumped out: “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.”
That sentence was like finding the lid on a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that I had been trying to put together since 2010.
Shortly after Licia Corbella at The Calgary Herald and Wendy Mesley at the CBC reported on the Tar Sands Campaign, CorpEthics entirely rewrote its description of the campaign, removing the sentence about how its strategy, from the beginning, has been to landlock Canadian oil.
CorpEthics also removed the following sentence that described the role of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Hewlett Foundation, a private foundation established by Hewlett-Packard co-founder William Hewlett and his wife, Flora: “In 2008, two major U.S. foundations asked CorpEthics to recruit the groups, develop the strategy, create a coordinated campaign, and act as a re-granting agency for the North American Tar Sands Campaign.”
The Tar Sands Campaign is not the only entity that the Hewlett Foundation funds to influence the price of oil. Hewlett also funds an organization called Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), granting it a total of at least US$3 million since 2006.
Hewlett explicitly funded SAFE “to help business leaders become compelling voices for government action to reduce U.S. oil dependence and vulnerability of U.S. businesses to high and volatile oil prices.” Evidently, Hewlett doesn’t hesitate to influence the price of oil — as long as it favours the U.S.
In the fall of 2017, I began to seek legal counsel to find out whether it is within the law for American charitable foundations to try to influence the price of oil in the U.S. by putting Canada on the global oil market sidelines.
The following spring, I retained a Calgary law firm, which reviewed my research, did additional work of its own and provided its legal opinion on May 31, 2018.
Noting that the target of the Tar Sands Campaign is the oilsands and that the people of Alberta are the owners of the oilsands (not the companies that lease them), and that the provincial government represents the people, the law firm identified the Government of Alberta as a natural plaintiff in potential legal action against the funders and coordinating entities of the campaign.
On July 10, 2018, this legal opinion paper was provided to Notley’s government. Nathan Rotman, Notley’s chief of staff, confirmed by phone that it was received by the premier, along with a 10-page memo prepared for her by the government’s lawyers.
Since then, Notley’s office — including her chief of staff and others — has consistently given the impression that the government was considering legal action against Rockefeller.
Notley had a choice. She could have taken action against the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
In December 2018, the premier’s office told The Edmonton Journal, “We will continue to consider all options going forward, legal and otherwise, in our fight for market access and top dollar for our oil.”
On Jan. 16, a senior staff person in Notley’s government texted me that there had been “a log jam,” but that it had been resolved. “Things moved way slower than I had hoped but I think I’ve finally broken the log jam,” he wrote. That same week, the same senior employee said the government was moving forward on the legal front “within days.” And then, nothing.
In hindsight, it’s clear that Notley never really intended to challenge Rockefeller. If she had wanted to, she could have mobilized the government’s lawyers or retained outside counsel and begun litigation in July 2018. How different things might be if only she had done so.
At the end of August 2018, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a group of applicants seeking to stall Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain Pipeline project. What wasn’t publicly known at the time is that the application had been funded, at least partially, as part of the Tar Sands Campaign.
We know this now because Living Oceans Society, one of the applicants to the Federal Court of Appeal, reported to the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. tax returns that it spent at least US$63,547 on this litigation. This information did not become publicly available to me until 11 days after the Federal Court of Appeal had ruled.
The origin of the US$63,547 is not publicly reported, but Living Oceans spent that amount in 2016 on litigation to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline by intervening in its regulatory review and bringing judicial review proceedings.
“The Society worked with non-profit lawyers at Ecojustice to intervene in the regulatory review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project,” Living Oceans reported to the IRS.
Ecojustice is the entity that brought the application to the Federal Court of Appeal. Ecojustice is also funded to participate in the Tar Sands Campaign, and has been paid US$815,000 (2009-2017) via San Francisco-based Tides Foundation for its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign.
Living Oceans also reported to the IRS that it “instructed its lawyers to bring judicial review proceedings against both the recommendation report of the National Energy Board and the ultimate decision of the Federal Cabinet to approve the project.”
In other words, the application to the Federal Court of Appeal was funded as part of the Tar Sands Campaign. This is not to say that the funding influenced the judge’s ruling. Rather, the application to the court was funded as part of the Tar Sands Campaign to landlock Alberta oil.
In Judge Eleanor Dawson’s ruling that paralyzed the Trans Mountain project last August, she referred to the applicants as “not-for-profit organizations.” No mention was made that three of the applicants had received at least US$700,000 to stop the very project before her court.
According to tax documents filed with the IRS, Tides Foundation funded the Tsleil-Wauteuth First Nation specifically “to stop and oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”
The Tsleil-Wauteuth First Nation was the lead applicant to the Federal Court of Appeal and Tides paid it at least US$270,000 (2009-2017) for the Tar Sands Campaign. Information on the amount that may have been paid in 2018 is not yet publicly available.
In ruling that the government needed to consult, and do so “meaningfully,” the court instructed the government to consult with the very same First Nation that is being funded to stop the project by non-Canadian sources with broad interests that stand to benefit by stalling the Trans Mountain project.
How different the court’s ruling might have been (indeed, the entire proceeding may have been conducted differently) if only Notley had initiated some form of legal action in July 2018 when she was provided a solid footing on which to begin and urged to do so.
At the very least, some form of legal action would have put on court record that the Tar Sands Campaign explicitly funds activist groups — including First Nations — to landlock Canadian oil.
Notley had a choice. She could have taken action against the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Notley could have defended Alberta and, indeed, all of Canada. She didn’t.
Notley has rarely if ever mentioned the Rockefeller name in public even though it is their money, their campaign, that has sabotaged the backbone industry of Alberta’s economy.
Vivian Krause is a Canadian researcher and writer. Find her at Twitter.com/FairQuestions.