The interview, which you can watch above, is really something unto itself. After being repeatedly asked to answer the basic question about Enbridge, Ms. Marshall responded with a series of shakily constructed talking points and completely avoided answering the question.
The Northern Gateway Pipeline would run from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. Proponents of the pipeline say it would open Canada’s wealth of oil resources to Asian markets, including China.
Opponents of the project, including many First Nations communities, point to recent oil pipeline leaks that could damage the pristine natural habitat of northern British Columbia. Opponents also point out the danger of navigating large oil tankers through the narrow and rocky Douglas Channel that leads to Kitimat.
Inspired by conservative political pundit Ezra Levant‘s book by the same name, the Ethical Oil website purports to “encourage people, businesses and governments to choose Ethical Oil from Canada, its oil sands and other liberal democracies.” The website suggests that “ethical oil” is a “fair trade” alternative to “conflict oil” exploited in some of our world’s more politically oppressive and environmentally reckless countries.
Pointing to Chiquita’s chequered past as the United Fruit Company, the website and its opportunistic political supporters, including Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and a handful of Conservative Party Members of Parliament have joined the fray pledging personal boycotts.
Starting with Mr. Levant, the Ethical Oil mantra has becomes a rotating door for young conservative activists. Until recently, the website was maintained by Alykhan Velshi, a former staffer to Conservative Minister Jason Kenney. Mr. Velshi now works as director of planning for Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s office. The website’s current spokesperson, Kathryn Marshall, is a former organizer with the Wildrose Party Club on the University of Calgary campus (her husband Hamish Marshall is a pollster and the former Manager of Strategic Planning for Prime Minister Harper).
There is no doubt that countries Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Nigeria have earned their reputations for having horrible human rights and environmental records, but I have never heard Ethical Oil directly challenge the multinational oil companies that operate in those countries. Many of the same companies that exploit “conflict oil” from these oppressive countries also happily operate in Alberta’s oil sands and employ many thousands of Canadians.
Court documents now reveal that in the 1990s Shell routinely worked with Nigeria’s military and mobile police to suppress resistance to its oil activities, often from activists in Ogoniland, in the delta region.
The company has been sued many times over its conduct in Nigeria. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say oil companies working in the delta, of which Shell is the largest, have overseen a “human rights tragedy”. Most of the alleged human rights abuses, they say, follow the companies’ refusal to abide by acceptable environmental standards.
As the Ethical Oil website denounces and promotes boycotts of companies that question the environmental record of Alberta’s oilsands, the website does nothing to promote a boycott of unethical oil producers, like Shell, that make billions of dollars exploiting their definition of ‘conflict oil.’
The arguments put forward by Ethical Oil are misleading and disingenuous. They compare bananas to oranges and drive the debate away from the real issue – our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels and the incredible environmental toll that multinational oil companies are enacting both overseas and in Alberta’s oilsands.