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The Canadian Government Paid $1M for Research to Promote the Tar Sands

Newly declassified documents reveal the scope of the government’s full court press on the oil sands.
Image: Flickr/sbamueller

The Canadian government spent $1 million to support undisclosed research on the Canadian oil industry as part of a $30 million campaign to promote the Albertan tar sands abroad, according to a document obtained by Greenpeace under the Access to Information Act and shared with Motherboard.

The document, which was prepared for the incoming Natural Resources Canada Deputy Minister in 2014, illustrates the full scope of Canada's aggressive PR campaign to push its crude oil exports on the US. While it was previously known that the government gave $22 million to an advertising firm—a fact mentioned by the Guardian in its report on the document—the document also reveals that the government allocated a previously unreported $4.5 million for domestic outreach.


Of that $4.5 million, $1 million was earmarked over two years, 2013 through 2015, "to support research by third parties to fill information gaps within the public dialogue or inform policy and outreach activities relating to Canadian natural resources, primarily the energy sector." In other words, the government has been bankrolling research with the express purpose of promoting the oil sands.

Watch more from Motherboard: Oil and Water

Natural Resources Canada did not respond to Motherboard's repeated request for comment on which parties were given the money, and for what research.

Government-funded Canadian climate research has teetered on a stark precipice for years, as repeated and severe funding cuts have continued to threaten ongoing research programs. Last year, many government projects faced their steepest cuts to date, sometimes up to more than 60 percent in reductions from previous funding levels. The government has also infamously continued to silence its climate researchers, which observers have dubbed "muzzling."

At the same time, it appears as though the government was funneling money into undisclosed research programs to promote the tar sands, which continue to pose a threat to the environment. UPDATE: Natural Resources Canada has shared a list of organizations given contributions and grants under the $1 million earmarked for third party research in the declassified document. The full list is below.


Fiscal year 2013-14:

1.B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council (contribution)

2.Canada 2020 Conference (contribution)

3.Pacific North West Economic Region (grant)

4.International Energy Agency (grant)

Fiscal year 2014-15:

1.B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council (contribution)

2.Canadian Chamber of Commerce (contribution)

3.Forest Products Association of Canada (contribution)

4.Atlantik Bruecke Canada Conference (grant) (under $25,000, therefore not posted under proactive disclosure)

5.Pacific North West Economic Region – Legislative Energy Horizon Institute (grant)