Government attacks free speech with gag order on positive oil and gas stories. Read More

Sneaky Gag Order Silences Canadians

Last minute amendments to the Fall Economic budgetary measures threaten multi-million dollar fines on Canadians – not to mention costly court battles – if they speak positively about the oil and gas industry’s environmental sustainability initiatives.

I might be breaking the law with this post, because I am telling the world that the oil and gas industry has tremendous revenue and jobs value for Canadians, and is making real and tangible progress on environmental sustainability.

As of June 20, that assessment is against the law and I can be challenged to prove every word according to some undefined standard and as judged by some unnamed arbiter. This – in Canada.

Sneaky last-minute amendments to Bill C-59 – which is supposed to implement last fall’s Economic Statement – will have the effect of gagging Canadians who want to tell the positive story about Canada’s oil and gas industry.

Companies that want to tell the world – and their customers and shareholders – about their progress on environmental sustainability will have to prove the truth of every syllable. That truth will be tested against some undefined “internationally recognized methodology” conducted by an unknown third party. I’m guessing some organization like “Greenpeace” but the government won’t tell us who, or what the test is.

The court costs and delays alone will be prohibitive, never mind the unlikelihood of an unbiased hearing.

If spokespeople fail this Kangaroo Court assessment, they face a first offence fine up to $10 million, or three times the benefit the “court” decides they gained from the “deception”. A second offense raises the fine to $15 million.  

See more in my video:

This is most likely an unconstitutional affront to free speech, or freedom of association, but that can take years to wind its way through courts. Telling the oil and gas environmental story is not hate speech, which is properly prohibited through other legislation. But activists like our federal Environment Minister call it “greenwashing”  and want to silence Canadians who talk about the industry’s environmental accomplishments or the value of the industry to Canada.  

The financial beneficiaries will likely be the who’s who list of non-governmental “environmental” organizations that are already being funded with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Why is this happening? I believe it is simply for the purpose of adding costs and delays and uncertainty to Canada’s resource developments.

Already the bill is having the predictable effect of shutting down free speech. One immediate effect of the law is that oil and gas companies, and groups such as the Pathways Alliance which was specifically created to reduce GHG emissions in the industry, are taking down valuable material from their websites, lest they be accused under this law. Citizens, investors, shareholders and customers are denied access to information about what the company is doing because of this freeze on information. We may see future omissions in documents such as Annual Reports, denying Canadians the full picture of a company’s activities. This is the opposite of the transparency we’d like to see in corporate communications.

The oil and gas industry contributes $26 billion a year in taxes and royalties, employs over 200,000 people directly in good-paying jobs, supports thousands more people and small businesses across Canada by purchasing goods and services, is Canada’s #1 export by far, and is investing millions of dollars of research and development into new technologies and processes that will reduce GHGs (across many industries and applications) and improve our land, air and water environments.

But that is not the story this government wants told.

The Government’s Anti-Free Speech Agenda

The government is adding this gag order to several other pieces of legislation that restrict freedom of speech in Canada, such as Bill C-18 which has resulted in Facebook and Instagram no longer allowing Canadian news to be posted, and Bill C-63 which includes a provision for a person to be punished with house arrest if a judge thinks he/she might commit a hate speech crime in the future.

This time, the government is hiding the anti-free speech amendments in an unrelated 546-page bill which has now received Royal Assent and is the law of the land.

Further Resources

Bill C-59: An Act to implement certain provisions of the fall economic statement