What does the Alberta government and its oil industry mentors have against the truth? There must be some kind of problem or they wouldn’t be so hysterically opposed to Bill C-59. The Bill, currently awaiting royal assent, contains a modest amendment to the Competition Act that will require companies to provide evidence to back up their environmental claims.

Specifically, the Act will be violated if a company “makes a representation to the public with respect to the benefits of a business or business activity for protecting or restoring the environment or mitigating the environmental and ecological causes or effects of climate change that is not based on adequate and proper substantiation…”

That simple requirement has caused the Pathways Alliance to remove climate and sustainability-related content from their websites, social media and other public communications. The Alliance is a coalition of the largest companies operating in Alberta’s tar sands. Dare we assume that their haste in wiping their website was because they can’t back up claims they were making?

Their government allies have echoed their panic. Like Pathways wiping their website, the UCP eliminated their infamous Canadian Energy Centre Ltd, known informally as the “war room,” the company the government established to wage war on oil industry critics.

And they have only begun to fight. Premier Smith et al. have promised to use every legal option, including a constitutional challenge or—one trembles—the use of the Alberta Sovereignty Act, to push back against the what they referred to as “absurd authoritarian censorship.”

Actually not so absurd. A legal requirement for truth in advertising is in fact commonplace. The Competition Act “prohibits all materially false or misleading representations” and “representations that are not based on adequate and proper tests.”

The Charter guarantees our right to freedom of expression, even if you are lying, but that doesn’t extend to making “materially false or misleading representations.” Companies that deceive the public about their products are violating the Act, and now so will be companies that deceive the public about their environmental efforts.

Corporations have very deep pockets, resources more than enough to corrupt public discourse. We will not make sound decisions about climate change if the oil industry is allowed to bias the debate as other industries and corporations have done in the past. As the prime minister said, “We need to make sure that people are debating and discussing and basing their worldview on things that are anchored in truth and reality.”

The Pathways Alliance has long touted its plan to deploy carbon capture and storage in order to reduce emissions from their operations by 22 million tonnes per year by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Despite record profits and significant public subsidies they have done nothing meaningful to reach those goals. They are producing more fossil fuels, and emissions, than ever while spending lavishly on misleading advertising.

Their industry is the country’s leading greenhouse gas emitter. If we can’t get meaningful action from them, we can at least insist they tell the truth.

2 thoughts on “Pathways pulls propaganda”
  1. it should be renamed the anti-greenwashing act!

    There comes a time when we have to admit and say: The Emperor has no clothes!


  2. Seems like an admission of guilt by Pathways and the Gov’t of Alberta. Dear, dear. I would have thought it smarter to slowly edit the site before the bill gets royal assent. I doubt we can expect anything intelligent from the UCP.

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