The Institute

Here is part of a high-minded statement of purpose from a Canadian non-profit organization; see if you can guess which one.

The objects for which the Company is established are:
(a) To support and encourage research and education respecting the following:
(i) the use and development of natural resources including, without limitation, the extraction, production, development, conservation, protection, and distribution of natural resources, and other related matters, throughout Canada and the World;
(ii) conservation and protection of the environment;
(iii) ethical issues and considerations in respect of the items described in subparagraphs (i) and (ii) including, without limitation, issues and
considerations of environmental responsibility, peace, treatment of workers, democratic rights, and human rights;   ….

Suzuki Foundation? Nope. Well then, how about the energy think tank Pembina Institute? Wrong again, although this newer organization is also based in oil rich Alberta.

Say hello to – wait for it – the Ethical Oil Institute. Today I’ll take a first look at the hitherto unknown entity behind the latest push to defend the Alberta oil sands (a.k.a. tar sands). I’ll review the emerging roles of the Conservative-linked masterminds behind the initiative, namely pundit and author Ezra Levant and government spokesperson turned blogger Alykhan Velshi. And I’ll introduce Levant’s silent partner in the Institute: Calgary lawyer Thomas Ross,who also happens to be a partner at oil patch law firm McLellan Ross and one of the leaders of the firm’s OilSandsLaw.com initiative. All of this belies the studiously cultivated image of Ethical.org as a “grassroots” organizational effort; indeed, it looks more and more like industry sponsored  astroturf.

In retrospect, it all seems inevitable. As I noted last March, 2011 saw the rapid  promotion of Levant’s “ethical oil” meme (elaborated in his 2009 book of the same name) into adoption as a Conservative government catch-phrase. That was followed quickly by the surprising  transition of Conservative government spokesperson Alykhan Velshi into a new career as blogger at Levant’s Ethicaloil.org, recently made over in a slick relaunch.

In interviews Velshi spun the ad hoc nature of his involvement, stating that “he wasn’t paying himself” and pointing to the apparently improvised reliance on small PayPal donations to fund Access-to-Information requests to the dreaded CBC (Canada’s state-owned broadcaster). But somehow the narrative of Velshi bolting from a rising career in government in the wake of a comfortable Conservative majority, into an uncertain future helping out an old friend never quite added up. Ironically, it was a click on that very same PayPal button that yielded an important clue to the more complete story.

Well, well – the Institute that dares not speak its name. In fact, as of this writing, there were still only two Google hits for the mysterious Ethical Oil Institute. But one was crucial: the publication  of a notice of incorporation in the official Alberta Gazette.

ETHICAL OIL INSTITUTE/INSTITUT DU PETROLE ETHIQUE
Non-Profit Private Company Incorporated 2011 MAR 09
Registered Address: 600, 12220 STONY PLAIN ROAD, EDMONTON ALBERTA, T5N 3Y4.

The address turned out to be the Edmonton office of McLennan Ross, a pre-eminent Alberta law firm (more on that in a moment). And the registration date of March 9, 2011 shows plans for the Ethicaloil.org were well underway long before Velshi’s initial blog posts in June, and indeed before the Canadian election campaign (which was called in late March).

Birds of Feather

The biographies of Levant and Velshi both show a long involvement with the Harper-led Conservatives (and in Levant’s case,  its western-based predecessors, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party). Indeed the arc of their careers are remarkably similar, with the elder Levant about 10 years ahead of Velshi. Both cut their teeth at right-wing think tanks: Velshi was an intern in 2005 at the American Enterprise Institute (where he prepared a summary  of an anti-U.N. conference), while Levant  started out as a 1996 intern at the Fraser Institute.

And both have extremely hawkish views on the Middle East and have gotten into hot water with over-the-top attacks on their political enemies. Perhaps Levant’s lowest point (and that’s saying something)  came last year when he wrote a column in the Toronto Sun falsely accusing financier and philanthropist George Soros of having been a Nazi collaborator.  Meanwhile, Velshi is feeling the heat for his role in Conservative government efforts to ban former U.K. MP George Galloway from entering Canada; along with his ex-boss Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, he faces a $1.5 defamation million lawsuit for allegations that Galloway financed terrorism.

However, it was their common political affiliation that first brought them together. Levant is now a commentator and talk show host at the the fledgling Sun News TV network in Toronto.  But much earlier he worked for  parliamentary aide for Reform Party leader Preston Manning, and Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day, before winning the nomination as Alliance candidate in Calgary Southwest.  That political career ended when Levant reluctantly stood aside to let newly-elected leader Stephen Harper run in his stead and re-enter Parliament in 2002. However, Levant did go on to work in the all-important “war room” in  subsequent elections, as Harper presided over the merger of the Canadian Alliance into the Conservative Party and formed the government in 2006.

Meanwhile Velshi held various posts with the Conservatives, notably as an advisor to Environment Minister John Baird, and communications director for the aforementioned Kenney. He too was a valued member of the Conservative re-election team in the 2008 election campaign, and that’s apparently when he and Levant became good friends.

A new non-profit …. and a career change

The first inkling of the Ethical Oil project came in a late May report in the Hill Times. In an email to friends just after the May 2 election, Velshi had announced he was about to leave his government post. He was coy about his future plans, which he said he didn’t “yet know for certain”. But he told the Hill Times in that he was “pursuing an opportunity in the not-for-profit sector, outside partisan politics” and that he had wanted to leave Parliament Hill at the “least disruptive” time.

Another Hill Times report, at the time of  EthicalOil.org’s late June soft launch, presented Velshi as a passionate oil sands advocate and grassroots organizer on a shoestring budget,”mooching off free Wi-Fi at coffeehouses and wearing flip-flops”. Oh, and “not raking in any dough”, at least for the time being.

He also explained a little bit about the genesis of EthicalOil.org, or rather what we now know to be the Ethical Oil Institute.

“I think with [Levant] going to the Sun [News Network], I think he hasn’t had enough time to push out this argument in the media, in panels and in debates,” said Mr. Velshi. “I said, ‘Well, look, I’m looking to do something after government. Why don’t I set this up? And I’d be looking for your advice on how to do that.'”

Well, then, let’s take a closer look at the organization Velshi and Levant “set up” back in early March. A close examination of Institute’s founding documents (available from the Alberta corporate registry) reveals a lot of information that has otherwise been emerging in dribs and drabs, or else not at all.

Take, for instance, the rather basic matter of the organization’s location. The Ethical Oil Institute is incorporated under  Alberta Companies Act Part 9 (governing non-profit organizations), with its registered office at the Edmonton address of law firm McLellan Ross. The two shareholders (and board directors) are  Levant and McLellan Ross partner Thomas Ross. They have given as their addresses the firm’s smaller Calgary office, which is indeed Ross’s place of work.

But the EthicalOil.org Facebook page proclaims that it is a  “Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)” located in Toronto, Ontario, neatly hiding the Ethical Oil Institute’s proximity to the oil industry, physical and otherwise.

Similarly, the involvement of  Ross – made public here for the first time as far as I know – has inconvenient optics. Ross is a lynchpin of McLellan Ross’s Calgary office, where he is one of ten lead partners in McLellan Ross’s “Oil Sands Law.com” initiative, described as a “Slick new oilsands cross-selling strategy” in a 2009 Canadian Lawyer article.

The respective official roles of Levant, Ross and Velshi can be surmised by an examination of the list of officers in the Articles of Association, cross referencing to the occasional crumb offered up by Velshi and Levant.

The executive officers of the Company shall be the President & Executive Director, a Treasurer, and a Secretary, or alternatively, a President & Executive Director and a SecretaryTreasurer. The President & Executive Director, Treasurer, and Secretary may be elected by the Board at the first or any subsequent meeting of the Board held after each Annual General Meeting. The Board may also elect or appoint at any time and from time to time as officers or executive officers a Chairman of the Board, …

Velshi recently described himself, for the first time, as the “executive director of EthicalOil.org”. That came in a press release last week describing his latest stunt –  an Ottawa “protest” featuring a gruesome post card handout and two niqab wearing young women (one blue-eyed and one brown-eyed, presumably to provide politically correct eye colour balance). And Levant apparently has the Chairman’s seat on the Institute’s board, according to  this week’s Ottawa Sun newspaper report on the new Ethical Oil TV ad now running on the Oprah Winfrey Canadian network. I guess they should know these things.

… That’s the stark message from a new group dubbed Ethical Oil, founded by a former Tory staffer and chaired by Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant. Levant wrote an award-winning book by the same name and provided start-up cash.

Logically, that means Thomas Ross is Secretary-Treasurer – the money guy. Makes sense.

Finances: The median is the message

In the late June Hill Times interview, Velshi discussed the new Ethical Oil venture.

Mr. Velshi said he plans to devote the next six months to the project.

“If it takes off, this will become my career for the next little bit,” he said.

Mr. Velshi said Mr. Levant has offered some of the $20,000 he won from a National Business Book Award for Ethical Oil to pay for the project’s start-up costs. Individual donations or membership fees are meant for publicity, not overhead costs, said Mr. Velshi. He said he won’t accept money from “foreign interests or lobbyists” and won’t seek or accept money from government. He said he had no plans for a corporate membership category, but that individual members of political parties or oil and gas companies would be free to donate to the not-for-profit project.

“I certainly expect that people who work in the ethical oil industry, whether they’re welders or pipe fitters from Newfoundland who work in Fort McMurray, or whether it’s geologists in Calgary, maybe some Conservative activists in Ottawa, may chip in $10 or $15,” he said.

Fortunately, the Institute’s Memorandum of Association doesn’t tie Velshi down to such pesky details as whether corporate donations would or would not be accepted, or what individual donations would fund. That’s a good thing, because the PayPal button asking for “$5, $10 or $15″ first appeared alongside a blog post asking for donations to fund Velshi’s Access to Information request to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That doesn’t sound like “publicity”, although arguably all of Velshi’s antics so far could be classified as publicity stunts.

But if small individual donations are going only to publicity, then how are overhead costs – including Velshi’s eventual remuneration – going to be funded?

Perhaps the EthicalOil.org PayPal donation statement will help us understand this.

The No Tar Sands Coalition, Greenpeace, and other opponents of Ethical Oil are funded by grants from foreign foundations. EthicalOil.org, by contrast, will not take money from foreign corporations, foundations, governments, or lobbyists. We will not allow foreign corporate interests to compromise our independence. This means we rely on small donors like you to sustain our grassroots advocacy. Please consider making a $5, $10, or $15 donation

So, let’s see. The small donations pay for publicity (also known as “grassroots advocacy”). And no “foreign corporate interests” are allowed to contribute (although presumably a well-heeled individual foreign shareholder could press that PayPal button just like anyone else).

That leaves large donations from Canadian corporations and possibly their individual executive officers.  (Note that would also include foreign controlled companies like ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil and Koch-owned Flint Hills Resources Canada).

So let’s sample some of  Velshi’s various statements about corporate donations (with emphasis added):

  • Hill Times, June 27 (Kristen Shane): “[Velshi] said he had no plans for a corporate membership category, but that individual members of political parties or oil and gas companies would be free to donate to the not-for-profit project.”  [That strongly implies individual donations only, without explicitly ruling out corporate donations.]
  • Guardian, July 28 (Leo Hickman):  “Velshi said: ‘I won’t take money from any foreign corporations, any governments.’ He added, though, that, if offered, he wouldn’t refuse Canadian corporate donations.
  • Huffington Post, August 28 (Althia Raj):Velshi wouldn’t say whether EthicalOil.org collects money from big oil companies. He described his campaign as ‘grassroots’, saying all Canadians who care about ethical oil are invited to donate and that the median donation is in the $20-$25 range. ‘We are 100 per cent independent of government and industry,’ he wrote in an email.”

Not to mention 100 per cent evasive. I especially like the comment about the “median donation”, which begs the obvious questions about the amount and source of the largest donations.

I dare say Friends of Science also had a median contribution of about $25 in their heyday (they too offered memberships for that amount). But the dozens of membership fees were dwarfed by the corporate and foundation donations funnelled through Barry Cooper’s bogus research fund at the University of Calgary.

Of course, it took years for the truth about Friends of Science to start to  emerge, and some details are still missing. And in that case the egregious use of a university research fund as a conduit meant that key information could not be covered up forever.

So we may never know the identity of Ethical Oil’s biggest supporters. However, besides the obvious connection in the person of Thomas Ross, there is one other intriguing bit of evidence that the Calgary oil patch was being canvassed for support, even before Velshi’s first blog post (courtesy of that second Google hit).

It turns out the Ethical Oil Institute was a “birdie” sponsor of this year’s Kinnear Classic celebrity golf tournament, an annual fundraising event in support of the Calgary Health Trust. That’s no doubt a worthy cause, but one wonders why a cash-starved startup non-profit would participate in such an event. Presumably, you have to spend money to make money, and what better way to introduce the new kid on the non-profit block to Calgary’s corporate elite.

Onwards and upwards

In a few short weeks, Ethical Oil has gone from a humble blog to a slick social media website, complete with a Facebook presence and Twitter feeds. The stakes could be not be higher, as oil sands defenders and opponents battle over the Obama administration’s final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, widely expected in the next three months. That decision could set the course for oil sands development for decades to come.

The hypocrisy of Ethical Oil’s framing  of the issue as a choice between “ethical oil” and “conflict oil” has been duly noted elsewhere. After all, pretty much every important player in the oil sands has operated in the Middle East or Africa, and several still do. Less noticed has been Velshi’s math challenged mangling of the usual talking points downplaying the greenhouse gas impact of the oil sands.

According to Environment Canada’s measurements, the oilsands has reduced its GHG output by 29% since 1990. Despite massive expansion of oilsands production in the last two decades, Canada’s oil companies have managed to cut their carbon output by nearly a third.

It’s emission intensity (i.e. GHGs per barrel), not output, that has been cut by 29%; that’s a figure that’s often quoted precisely to avoid discussion of the steep rise in total GHG output from the oil sands, a trend that Environment Canada projects will result in a tripling of GHG output from 2005 to 2020.  Clearly, Ethical Oil’s “research and education” in this area deserves more detailed scrutiny.

Nevertheless, the most insidious aspect of the Ethical Oil campaign is its attempt to present itself as a broadly supported, independent “grassroots” movement. There is now every reason to treat that narrative with, shall we say, extreme skepticism.

[Update, September 11: The misidentification of George Galloway as a Labour MP has been corrected (he had been expelled from the Party in 2003 and sat as an independent until 2010). As well, Ezra Levant was never an MP; he was nominated as Canadian Alliance candidate, but stepped aside for Stephen Harper before the 2002 election. ]

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89 responses to “The Institute

  1. So does Canada have anything equivalent to form the form 990 that US nonprofits are supposed to file, which then becomes public record?

    • Unlike the U.S., Canadian foundations and corporations do not have to report donations to non-profits. And the non-profits themselves do not have to report any individual donations. Reporting of donations is entirely voluntary at both ends.

      The Fraser Institute provides a good example of this problem, one I’ll get around to posting on some time. ExxonMobil’s donations a few years back (about $100K if I recall) and the more recent largesse from the Kochtopus are a matter of public record.

      Encana will divulge the information if asked, but don’t have a public report. They have a long term agreement to provide $100K a year (a fact I’ve never seen discussed), which probably makes Encana the Fraser’s largest single supporter, especially if you add in the $1 million endowment from founding CEO Gwyn Morgan (now retired, but still vice-chairman at the Fraser Institute). Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary) refuses to divulge any amounts, although they did mention Fraser support a recent annual report on corporate giving.

      Federally registered charities do have to file a return, but I haven’t looked into if they contain any useful information; somehow, I doubt it. Alberta registered non-profits, like Ethical Oil, need only produce a simple audited statement, which will give some information about the budget and total amounts of contributions, but probably no useful breakdown. And we won’t even see that for at least a year most likely.

    • Yeah, the US form 990 doesn’t include donations either, but does include things like who the top staff are and how much they are paid. You can learn some surprising things that way. For example, Robert Ferguson, the head of the Science and Public Policy Institute, was taking a full-time salary from the Frontiers of Freedom at the same time as he was claiming that the SPPI was independent of the FoF. Once in a while, some random document will get mixed in with the filing and wind up as a public record.

      I suggest obtaining whatever documents you can as soon as they are available, even if you don’t expect to find much in them.

    • On Bob Ferguson: $247,500 from Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (the Idsos), plus a $60,000 bonus.

    • Thanks for that update on where Ferguson is getting his money. He wasn’t getting paid by the Idsos in tax year 2007 or 2008.

      Interestingly, the <a href="http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/86-0902777/center-study-carbon-dioxide-global-change.aspx#Guidestar lists the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change as being tax exempt because it is a “Religion, Spiritual Development / (Christian) ” orgniazation

  2. (Your first link to Ethical Oil needs to be fixed.)

    I assume that an advocacy group like Ethical Oil that avows such high standards will be among the first to cry foul if it were to be revealed that unethical countries like, say, Saudi Arabia held a large working interest in the refinery at the end of the Keystone XL pipeline; or if it were ever reported that, for example, Chinese companies were investing in the Northern Gateway pipeline or the tar sands themselves.

    After all, if you are telling people that they should not buy oil from unethical regimes, it would only be consistent to urge Canadian companies not to sell oil to those same foreigners.

    However, I can’t find any mention of these issues on the Ethical Oil website. That must be an oversight that I’m sure they will waste no time in correcting.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/u-s-oil-giants-poised-to-gain-on-keystone-pipeline-20110804

    http://oilinvestingnews.com/3812-china-eyes-alberta-oil-sands-investment.html

  3. Pingback: Keystone XL Pipeline — Game Over? « The Policy Lass

  4. Alison at Creekside has more on Velshi:

    http://creekside1.blogspot.com/search?q=velshi

    Velshi debating Daryl Hannah just the other day, about the Keystone XL pipeline:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/08/31/pol-keystone-protests.html

    I’d say Levant’s lowest point to date was his mockery, while wearing an orange wig, of the late Jack Layton and of the people mourning for Layton. Levant is now being referred to as Dame Ezra:

    http://drdawgsblawg.ca/2011/08/dameezra.shtml

  5. 990s:
    1) Foundations say where the money went (including some to Fraser),
    but nonprofits don’t’ say where it came from. Sometimes one can compare.

    2) http://www.desmogblog.com/crescendo-climategate-cacophony
    went through this ,see pp.93-, and some analyses of specific thinktanks.
    I could usually find 20-50% of the money.

    • If only we had such rules in Canada. Too bad the politicians didn’t act when they had a chance. With a Conservative majority, a law concerning transparency of corporate giving is unlikely to happen.

  6. Tom Ross was Levant’s lawyer in 2008 – quote from near the bottom:

    “…I simply had my lawyer, Tom Ross, review the letter from the CHRC and review and revise my reply. If you want to chip in, I’d be grateful. You can click the PayPal button below, or send a cheque by snail mail to Tom, payable to “McLennan Ross in Trust”, and indicate that it’s for my human rights complaints. Tom’s address is:

    McLennan Ross

    1600 Stock Exchange Tower
    300 – 5th Avenue SW
    Calgary, AB T2P 3C4

    Thank you…”

    http://ezralevant.com/2008/08/levant-to-chrc-you-should-all.html

  7. Levant accused George Soros of being a Nazi collaborator? He must be totally clueless!

    And in that picture — isn’t that an Orange Crush he’s drinking? Seems like overkill.

  8. Can you please call the tar sands “tar sands” and not “oil sands”?

    No sense helping these guys propagandize their stuff. From what I’ve read it is nasty, poisonous material even after it is refined enough to go into the pipeline.

    • Mark.

      Your point is fair, and I should explain why I use “oil sands” (albeit with the occasional tag “aka tar sands” above).

      In some of these terminology battles there are alternatives available. For example, in “skeptic” vs “denier”, I tend to go with “contrarian” or ” ‘skeptics’ ” (i.e. in quotes).

      Here it’s one or the other, and for better or worse, oil sands (or oilsands) has become standard, even among much of the opposition to the rampant development of the Athabasca bituminous sands. I’m a big fan of the Pembina Institute and that is the term they use.

  9. Globe and Mail, Thursday, Jul. 28, 2011 :
    “Mr. Velshi says he is not paying himself a salary. A PayPal button on the website is being used to gather small donations for media projects.
    Asked whether he is getting corporate donations, he said, “I won’t take money from any foreign corporations, any governments.” Pressed about Canadian corporate donations, he said he wouldn’t refuse any.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ex-tory-message-maven-tailors-his-spin-to-oil-sands/article2112313/

    Mirror site : http://www.freedomsledder.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=48370

  10. Quite a bit of research and time invested in this article. Kudos, too bad it did not turn up anything except ethical conduct in promoting ethical oilsands oil.

    If you we’re to research the direputable funding source of desmogblog.com you might come up with something. Their funding is primarily from someone who has been charged with money laundering and is an astroturf site for global warming propoganda. Look into it!

    • Well let’s see. Ethical Oil Institute is an organization that:
      – Claims to be located in Toronto, when in fact it is Alberta-based
      – Assiduously hides its corporate connections and financial support
      – Promulgates highly misleading – and sometimes plain wrong – information

      That’s the opposite of ethical.

      As for Desmogblog benefactor John Lefebvre, you forgot to mention that the money laundering charges were dropped although he did plead guilty to breaking U.S. gambling laws, a much lesser charge.

      Desmogblog founder James Hoggan is a leader in Canadian public relations; he was given a special award by the Canadian Public Relations Society for his work in exposing the shady PR practices of Tom Harris and Morten Paulsen, both of whom used University of Calgary research funds to promote a “partisan” view of climate change, as noted by U of C lawyers when they finally shut it down. You’ll have a chance to discuss this topic soon enough, but for now please try to stay on topic. Thanks!

    • This is perfectly on topic. It becomes difficult to make an ethical arguement with clean hands when one links to a site like desmog. When you consider the amount of damage caused to citizens by the gambling industry it becomes difficult to find a more unethical funding source than someone who helped problem gamblers circumvent regulatory processes to feed their addiction.

      [DC: Of course, Desmogblog off topic – the topic is astroturf groups, and Desmogblog is most certainly not one of these, despite your claims. Quite the opposite – it works to *expose* the astroturf groups. And it does a pretty good job of it, too. Nice try, though.

      And yes gambling addiction is off topic too, although you should read this paper and learn:

      http://www.divisiononaddictions.org/html/publications/shafferinternetgambling.pdf

      “Therefore, the health risks associated with Internet based gambling are not meaningfully
      different from other electronic gambling. Further, it might be possible for Internet-related gam-
      bling to afford increased player protection compared with in-person gambling settings; all Inter-
      net players are registered with sites and the computer servers associated with these sites can
      monitor gambling patterns with increased precision.”

      Enough from you on that … ]

      In regards to the ethical oil campaign it is also odd how one can attack the messenger without dealing with the message. The arguement regarding ethical oil must be very robust indeed.

      [DC: I’ve already discussed some of the”ethical” argument’s epic fails (see below) and will continue to do so. ]

      In any event dealing with your three issues.
      1. Who cares where the money comes from. The ethical oil campaign could be run by one guy in a basement. It’s not like they have hired writers and are running a large campaign. In any event it is the message that matters.

      [DC: Well they have contracted with a slick and politically connected PR operator. You didn’t seriously think that EthicalOil.org was a one-person effort by Velshi, did you? Stay tuned and learn. And of course it matters where the money is coming from – that’s why they go to such great lengths to hide the sources.]

      2. What misinformation? All the information diseminated by Ethical oil is 100% accurate. YOu may disagree with the yard stick used. IE intesity targets but their is no misinformation here. Just good PR.

      [DC: Read Velshi’s statement above a little more carefully – he clearly mixes up GHG output with output per barrel. That’s a shocking mistake. And in general, the use of well-to-wheels analysis instead of well-to-tank, as well as the omission of key GHG sources in the cited life cycle analysis *is* misleading. I will grant you that these problems are shared by CAPP and the Canadian government. ]

      3. What relevance does the registered office have to anything?
      Velshi lives in Toronto, LEvant in Calgary and the registered office is In Edmonton. Who cares? Levant when to the U of A (Edmonton) So I presume he had an old school chum register the non profit. According to CCRA rules, the location of the corporation is not determined by where it is registered by rather where the mind and management resides. In this case Toronto.
      But again Who cares? It’s a Canadian non profit corp thats all that matters.
      In any event I hope these guys get compensated somehow as they have done Canada and the world a great service with their ethical oil campaign.

      [DC: Again you’re missing the point. Thomas Ross is a co-owner and co-director and both he and Ethical Oil’s registered office are in Alberta. As for CCRA tax status, I see no evidence that Ethical Oil has applied for that or would come even close to qualifying, even under the fairly relaxed rules in place. Alberta rules for non-profits are very laissez-faire, but don’t confer tax status, although it does permit the non-profit to apply for government grants for truly charitable activities.]

    • Notice how arguments made against deniers and such return in their own arguments in garbled form, such as Don Simpson here calling Desmogblog an astroturf site although it has never pretended to be a grassroots site. Velshi’s blog does claim to be a grassroots site but is clearly a real astroturf site.

  11. Great to see another thorough post by DC. The whole “ethical oil” campaign sounds like it was tailor-made for/by the Harper Government (TM), and, frankly, its more than a little nauseating.

    However, I’m left wondering if a tightly focused access to information request can’t be made to examine charitable donations listed on income tax forms filed by Canadian corporations. Pick four or five of the big players in the tar sands, and go fishing.

  12. Levant is quickly becoming the Pam Geller of Canada. I would love to see his reputation in Canada crash and burn.

  13. hengistmcstone

    FWIW George Galloway was kicked out of the British Labour Party in 2003 for opposing the Iraq War.

    [DC: Corrected – Thanks!]

    • Good for him. And didn’t Clare Short resign from cabinet in opposion to the war?

      I believe that while PM Chretien certainly did not want to get Canada involved he also would have lost most or all of his cabinet and probably lost a vote of confidence it there was any chance Canada went to Iraq.

  14. Galloway was investigated for getting money from Saddam from the oil-for-food program. Galloway opposed the sanctions that were put into effect after Saddam attacked Kuwait, but he was suspended from the House of Commons because he was on the take from Saddam.

    “The [British House of] Commons standards and privileges committee, in recommending the 18-day ban, said Mr Galloway had been “complicit” in the concealment of the true source of funds for the Mariam Appeal.”
    Telegraph July 18, 2007

    [DC: Everything you want to know about Galloway (including various defamations by the Telegraph and others) can be found at Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway#Controversy

    There’s a lot more to this than you claim.

    Galloway’s problems entering Canada after apparently defamatory statements by Velshi and his boss, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney,
    are covered in this section:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway#Forbidden_to_enter_Canada ]

  15. Pingback: Who is behind the Ethical Oil Institute? | Edmonton Journal

  16. From what I’ve seen so far if they are funded by industry at all it would surprise me. There is no sustained ad campaign nor have these efforts smack of the clean slick sophistication that well funded ads would. So it behooves me that industry would have any hand in it.

  17. Money went to Galloway’s wife “Amina Naji Abu Zayyad.”

    You may do best to search her name.

    See a UK Times article titled UN Team Links More Oil Cash to Galloway Wife’s Bank Account.”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article583823.ece

    [DC: Again, a more balanced account and set of links here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway#Humanitarian_work

    Enough of that, unless you have information on Jason Kenney’s and Alykhan Velshi’s particular statements about Galloway. Thanks!]

  18. This Tyee article covers the same ground, and in passing it mentions this post by Deep Climate:

    http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2011/09/08/Ethical-Oil-Blitz/

    Velshi has an ad campaign on Oprah Winfrey’s network. I don’t know how widespread it is; but it does seem to be targetting women especially.

  19. before running and winning election as a Calgary MP

    That’s incorrect. Levant had only won the Alliance nomination for the riding. He had not in fact been elected MP. When Harper needed a seat, he brushed Levant aside.

    [DC: Now corrected. Thanks! ]

  20. Karen Kleiss at the Edmonton Journal also cites this post, and has posted some original documents about Velshi’s blog:

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2011/09/09/who-is-behind-the-ethical-oil-institute/

    Hat tip BCL: http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2011/09/ethical-oil.html#links

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  22. Interesting article here discusses the “ethical oil” concept and various other issues:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/09/extreme-extraction/

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  24. Speaking of funding for astroturf, Mike De Souza has a new letter about Talisman donating to Friends of Science:

    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Talisman+Energy+kick+started+climate+skeptic+fund/5396239/story.html

    See also his twitterfeed starting here:

    Also in Calgary Herald:

    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Talisman+Energy+kick+started+climate+skeptic+fund/5396277/story.html?cid=megadrop_story:

  25. De Souza has posted the documents:

    And is having some interesting twiter conversations.

  26. I first put this comment (below) on #10 by mistake. You might want to delete it from there.

    I found the passage in the Volker Report (UN) about Galloway. It is here. I think it starts on about page 79.

    http://www.iic-offp.org/documents/Final%20Report%2027Oct05/IIC%20Final%20Report%20-%20Chapter%20Two.pdf


    [DC: The most up-to-date findings are those of 1) the U.K. parliamentary commission …

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmstnprv/909/90904.htm

    The original charges (e.g. in the U.S. congress) that Galloway made enormous profits personally from oil concessions or illegitimate oil-for-food sales were clearly utterly false. In that sense, your statement that Galloway was “on the take” is wholly unjustified.

    What’s left is allegations how much he knew, or should have known, about the source used to support the Mariam project. Here the commission contradicts itself – stating he was “complicit” and that there was “connivance” in funding the Mariam Appeal from oil revenue, and then saying he failed to investigate the source of funds (implying *lack* of full knowledge of their source).

    and 2) The charity commission ]

  27. A pleasant surprise:

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/09/15/jonathan-kay-on-global-warming-the-climategate-shoe-is-now-on-the-other-foot/

    “Following the latter episode in 2009, a Financial Post colleague wrote that the controversy “requires a full investigation by competent scientists and official bodies.” In his next column, I expect he will be demanding that UCalgary gets the same treatment.”

    Hear, hear.

  28. Thank you for the link to the British site. I will read what they said.

  29. Good stuff.
    Remember, Al Capone was reputed to have done Many Bad Things, but they only put him jail for tax evasion … but he was in jail, nevertheless.
    “Follow the money” is a fine thing.

  30. BCL blogged about FoS, Tom Harris, etc., and has had some responses from Harris, who is teaching a climate science course at Carleton University that was originated byTim Patterson:

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2011/09/ny-times-fluffs-goreathon-climate.html#links

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      > Harris, who is teaching a climate science course at Carleton University

      Shudder… poor students

  31. Velshi is said to be making the Saudis angry; and the ads will be on Sun News Network this week:

    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2011/09/18/18704136.html

    • Here is the Ethical Oil ad (forgot to link to it in the original post):

      Interesting that the ad refers to North Americans as “we”, even though the ad is only airing in Canada so far.

  32. According to Levant, if you can believe anything he writes, Saudi Arabia is threatening to sue:

    http://www.torontosun.com/2011/09/19/take-your-secret-saudi-threats-and-shove-em

    BCL predicts that grovelling will soon follow:

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2011/09/another-lawsuit-against-ezra-levant.html#links

  33. I asked Andrew Leach about Ezra’s claim that Canada’s oilsands exports to the US could replace Saudi oil, and he explained why this would be unlikely:

    http://andrewleach.ca/oilsands/thinking-in-terms-of-renovated-bungalows-not-megatons/#comment-1053

  34. Since fossil-fuel companies pay politicians to muzzle scientists, this campaign seems really hypocritical.

  35. Federal Ministers Jason Kenney and Joe Oliver criticized the Saudi lawsuit threat, and waved their little fake “freedom” flags. Remember that Kenney was the one who would not allow George Galloway to come and speak in Canada – so much for freedom of speech (which I think is more properly called freedom of expression in Canada).

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ethical-oil-ad-sparks-war-of-words-between-ottawa-saudis/article2173999/

  36. Petition to Oprah:

    http://www.credoaction.com/campaign/oprah_tar_sands/index.html?rc=homepage

    Tweeted here:

  37. And Levant’s sleazy response:

  38. De Souza reports on Andrew Leach pointing out the “ethical oil” idea could cause problems for Canadian and oil companies and oilsands companies operating in regions prone to conflict:

    http://www.canada.com/business/oilsands+group+challenged+over+Canadian+companies+conflict+regions/5438275/story.html

  39. So CTV had Velshi on discussing the Keystone XL pipeline (why on earth would they ask him?) and he gets stomped, so I am told (no time to watch right now), because Texas refinery is half owned by Saudis:

    http://www.ctv.ca/qp/index.html?vidId=538335#TopVideoAn

    An older blog post on “ethical oil”:

    http://hellberta.blogspot.com/2011/08/conflict-over-ethical-oil.html

    And about Ezra; a comment says Saudis own 7% of Fox News:

    http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2011/09/ezra-levant-on-slapp-suits.html#links

  40. Kathryn V. Marshall is replacing Velshi as spokescreature for EthicalOil.org:

    http://www.ethicaloil.org/news/welcome-kathryn-marshall/

    Could it be that Velshi was just not believable enough?

    • Here’s what Velshi had to say:

      After four and a half years in the bear-pit of federal politics – including two national election campaigns – and leading the establishment and launch of EthicalOil.org, I’m (finally) taking a break. Starting next week, I’m going to embark on what Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey I think called “arduous foreign travel” aka a really long vacation.

      When Ezra asked me early this summer to help him use this website to blog about the ideas in his book I don’t think either of us expected how fast interest in the ethical oil idea would grow or the amount of media attention we’d receive. We certainly didn’t expect to be censored by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its 2,600 lawyer law firm.

      Now that EthicalOil.org is up and running, it’s a good time for me to hand over the reins to someone else.

      As usual, Velshi’s story doesn’t really add up. Originally he said he had signed up for six months, but this would be his new career if EthicalOil.org took off. Now he’s saying Ethical Oil has taken off beyond expectations, so he is “taking off” on extended vacation, presumably to do something else afterwards.

      Also, does this mean Kathryn Marshall has now replaced Velshi as Executive Director of the Ethical Oil Institute? And will they finally own up to being based in Alberta?

    • Kathryn Marshall is also an enthusiastic supporter of Alberta’s hard-right Wildrose Party, having founded the U of C Wildrose club (which is as close as the party has to youth wing right now).

      Although the Institute is linked to the federal Conservatives, they are no friends of the provincial centre-right parties now governing in B.C. and Alberta.

      That’s one reason the choice of Marshall is no surprise. There are others, but that’s a story for another time.

    • Maybe its her Fraser Institute connections?

      http://ca.linkedin.com/in/kvmarshall

      Nah, couldn’t be…

  41. I wonder if Velshi’s leaving had anything to do with the Saudi SLAPP suit.
    This

    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2011/09/27/18745801.html?cid=rssnewspolitics

    …makes it pretty clear the federal gov. doesn’t plan to do anything about it. But this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/27/alykhan-velshi-toronto-atmospheric-fund_n_984246.html

    …is just weird

  42. How are they going to be punished? ” Canada’s New Govts” handpicked panel has laid out in simple dollar terms the damage we can expect from climate change over the next few years to few decades.

    Perhaps ethical oil only results in ethical damages and ‘ ethical financial losses.

    John McManus ( Canadian, but so ashamed)

  43. Mother Jones article on Levant lobbyiing for tobacco as well as “ethical oil”.

    http://motherjones.com/environment/2011/10/keystone-xl-tar-sands-ethical-oil-pr-campaign

  44. A rebuttal to claims made by Kathryn Marshall:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ben-amunwa/oil-sands_b_1019802.html

    Her original article:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kathryn-marshall/ethical-oil_b_1012567.html

    The Huffington Post Canada has all sorts of writers including some bilge-producers and shills.

  45. Pingback: The Ethical Oil Institute on oil sands emissions | Deep Climate

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  47. Looks to me like analysts are trying to repackage the “ethical oil” argument to look not quite so blatant and dishonest:

    http://www.embassymag.ca/page/view/oil-11-30-2011

  48. peter clibbon

    Excellent review of ethical oil.com. i was fooled for a second, when reading a newspiece (http://www.lfpress.com/news/canada/2012/01/02/19191736.html) that reads like a photocopy of ethicaloil’s press release… the hanging question is ‘who is ethicaloil.org’ in the first place, which the irresponsible journalist clearly was instructed by his/her editor not to report. I was a journalist for 3 years and would have never missed such an obvious ruse.

    well done.
    Peter

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