Environmental regulations, oil pipelines and carbon taxes are all on the line in Canada’s 2019 election, and the oil industry is pulling out all the stops to drill its message into Canadian politics.
Yet millions of dollars in pro-oil ads appear to be skirting campaign-disclosure laws and taking advantage of weak advertising regulations.
Corporate interests have taken advantage of a loophole in Canadian law to fill social media with videos that oppose regulations, promote oil pipelines, and other messages without disclosing their source, reports Buzzfeed News and the Toronto Star.
And an investigation by The Narwhal website claims that the regional government in Alberta, Canada, has been using public funds to run ads that include false information about a pipeline that runs through the region.
The videos, such as one paid for by a consortium of Alberta-based oil interests, do not make it obvious that they are produced by partisans, because they are made available on social media before an early deadline that requires them to do so.
And — precisely because they are posted online (often in both French and English versions), the videos do not disappear once Canada’s otherwise strict campaign-finance disclosure rules kick in close to an election.
Instead, the videos continue to circulate, picking up millions more views — with no tagline disclosing to viewers that ads are financed directly by companies and allied interests threatened by government regulation.
This enables messages by undisclosed vested interests to back candidates in favor of pipelines and opposed to climate-change regulation.
Critics also say that a more widespread pro-oil ad campaign is promoting false information about the oil industry plans in Alberta.
The ads include not just Internet videos, but also billboards and TV and spots.
What’s more, critics say, the $10 million (Canadian) spent on the ads are paid for by the public funds taken from from a regional-government PR campaign about investing in Canadian labor.
Oil development in Canada, and in Alberta in particular, is fiercely opposed due to the environmental dangers of pipeline spills, oil tankers and climate change.
Yet the issue is deeply divisive.
The energy industry is at present the economic backbone of many of Canada’s more rural and remote communities, where a slump in oil production has created a spike in unemployment.
Sources: The Toronto Star, Buzzfeed News, The Narwhal (Canada), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Bloomberg News