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‘This generation will have to invent a new version of Petro-Canada’, says Gordon Laxer

Gordon Laxer, director of the Parkland Institute (and Council of Canadians Board member), writes in the Globe and Mail today that, “Suncor’s proposed buyout of Petro-Canada is being touted as a match made in Canada to create a national champion that will kick-start the oil sands…Despite the spin, Petro-Canada’s death moves us further toward ensuring American, rather than Canadian, energy security.”

“With six new pipelines heading south, (the tar sands) are aimed straight at giving a fix to America’s energy addiction. More and more of Canada’s dwindling supplies of natural gas are burned up to heat dirty, tarry sands for export. This is the contrary to the reasons Petro-Canada was created, supported and paid for by Canadian taxpayers.”

“Set up in 1976 during an international oil-supply crisis, Petro-Canada was the flagship in a broader policy to ‘act for the people’ and ensure energy security for Eastern Canadians who relied on imports from risky OPEC exporters. (They still do.) Its mandate was to promote the national interest through conservation, moving Canadians away from oil, finding new supplies and providing a public ‘window’ on a very secretive oil industry.”.

TEXAS SUBSIDIARIES DIDN’T LIKE PETRO-CANADA “While Canadianization (of the oil industry) was incredibly popular, Petro-Canada’s presence was greeted with fear and derision by the minions of Texas’s subsidiaries in Calgary. They quickly dubbed Petro-Canada’s new Calgary headquarters Red Square, and set out to dismantle the Canada-first energy policy that the company promoted.”

BRIAN MULRONEY AND NAFTA’S DE FACTO MANDATORY-EXPORTING CLAUSE “They had their man in Brian Mulroney, who agreed to the energy-proportionality clause guaranteeing that Americans, rather than Canadians, got first access to the majority of Canada’s oil and gas. Petro-Canada’s purpose had been gutted. Proportionality, the de facto, mandatory-exporting clause, appeared first in the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement that went into effect on Jan. 1, 1989, and is now in the North American free-trade agreement. It applies only to Canada, since Mexico refused it.”.

“Mr. Mulroney’s Conservatives divested it of its public-interest purposes and forced the company to act like just any other greed-driven private oil company. (But) with today’s great recession, renationalization is back in vogue, especially in energy. If George Bush could nationalize banks and insurance companies, anyone can do it.”

NEW VERSION OF ORIGINAL PETRO-CANADA IS NEEDED “This generation will have to invent a new version of Petro-Canada to deal with the end of cheap oil, energy insecurity and looming climate-change disasters. Free-market privateers will resist the needed paradigm shift to a conserver society. It’s in their profit-driven DNA to sell as much of the destructive fuels as possible. But it’s not in the public’s, nor in nature’s interest, to allow them to do so.”

Gordon’s full op-ed, titled ‘Yesterday’s fuel, yesterday’s deal’, can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090324.wcopetro25/BNStory/specialComment/home