Scandals Surround Tar Sands Promotion

A series of news stories coming out of Canada are revealing a close relationship between government officials and major oil companies. 

Bruce Carson, a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is at the center of the scandal. Environmental advocates point out that he works closely with Canada’s big energy companies to spin the public image of Alberta’s oil sands while leading an academic think tank funded by $15 million in federal money.

He’s also under scrutiny for managing to hook up his former escort fiancé, 22-year old Michele McPherson, with a contract selling water filtration systems to First Nations where she would receive a 20 percent commission from sales on reserves. Really, a scam that would involve lobbying the government for money, an act that may lead to him becoming the subject of a criminal investigation. 

Harper called in the RCMP to investigate influence peddling, but only after the Aboriginal People’s Television Network broke the story. 

According to an article in The Tyee

Canada Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart said his role was more political than academic. According to Stewart, messages raised by environmental organizations about how development in the oil sands was destroying pristine Boreal forest and pushing greenhouse gases was worrying the think tank.

The strategy the organization discussed, obtained by Climate Action Network Canada, said “it would change tact and address perceptions by showing that the issues are being addressed and we have the right attitude.”

Carson left the Prime Minister’s Office in 2008 to become executive director for the Canada School of Energy and Environment, the research group with links to three Alberta universities. He returned to work as a top advisor for Harper in 2009 before going back to the School of Energy to meet with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and gas officials from Alberta’s government and Natural Resources Canada in 2010. CAPP is a big lobbying group representing Canada’s oil and gas companies.

He resigned from the school when the news about his efforts to help himself and his special lady friend was unearthed. 

He also co-authored a brief with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for a series of oil sands dialogues taking place across the country. The paper argues that “the economic and security value of oil sands expansion will likely outweigh the climate damage that oil sands create — but climate concerns are not to be ignored.”

The paper noted that clean energy efforts in the U.S. “will need to be carefully monitored as [they] could have a potentially negative effect on oil sands imports.”

Carson appeared before a Canadian Senate committee on energy and the environment in April 2010 and described the need for an oil sands pipeline in British Columbia.

“Right now,” he said, “if we say to the United States that we will take our ball and go home and go elsewhere, I think they would say, ‘Good luck to you,’ because there are not many other places to go.”

Carson was recently appointed to a panel studying water quality downstream from oil sands operations in the Athabasca River.

Stewart said with an election looming the Canadian public should question the Harper government’s relationship to Canada’s major oil sands players.

“I liken Carson to a political quarterback for the oil industry and the Harper government,” Stewart said. “Harper sees the interests of the oil industry as being the same thing as the national interest. We would respectfully disagree.”


W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thanks for the information.

William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you for caring.

Patricia Hughes
Patricia Hughes6 years ago

This is all about the Keystone Pipeline XL which the Republicans are trying THIS WEEK to attach to any bill passed in Congress. We need to storm Congress and the White House with Call and emails NOW.

Read more:

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Noted! Not surprised.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Thanks for this post Alicia.

Cesar V.
Cesar Villanueva6 years ago

Stephen Harper...Canada's version of George Bush...

Susan S.
Susan S6 years ago

Immediate removal of Bruce Carson from the panel seems crucial. The federal election may be influencing this and it may be why he is on a 'leave of absence'. Maybe they are hoping it will blow over without notice. Thanks for posting.

Samantha Hodder
Samantha Hodder6 years ago


Samantha Hodder
Samantha Hodder6 years ago


Rose Balcom
Rose Balcom6 years ago

Appointing someone with a track record like Bruce Carson just shows you how insincere the Canadian Government is when it comes to monitoring the Oil Sands.