Majority of oil and gas profits sent out of Canada, study finds

By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News, May 11, 2012

More than two-thirds of all oilsands production in Canada is owned by foreign entities, sending a majority of the industry's profits out of the country, says an analysis released Thursday by a B.C.-based conservation group.

The research by ForestEthics Advocacy was based on an analysis of shareholder information in January 2012 from Bloomberg Professional of more than a dozen companies, including nine with head-quarters in Canada, and six with their head offices in other countries. It found 71 per cent of the ownership of oilsands production was foreign, while the foreign-based companies controlled 24.2 per cent of the sector's production.

"Some notably Canadian oil companies, such as Suncor, Canadian Oil Sands and Husky, are predominantly owned by non-Canadians," said the report. "The data also shows us that more than half of Canada's oil and gas revenue goes to foreign entities."

The environmental group said it supports foreign investment in Canada, but wanted to see more laws and regulations to ensure that companies do not leave Canadians facing excessive environmental risks while the foreign owners are reaping the profits.

"The bottom line is Canada's policies need to be designed for Canadians, not just for big oil and foreign investors," said Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of ForestEthics. "Our data today is an important part of the conversation around who is benefiting from this dramatic push and expansion."

Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, noted that companies pay billions of dollars in royalties, not including about $766 billion in estimated taxes to be collected by federal and provincial governments over the next 25 years.

"Furthermore, employment doesn't occur in a vacuum," Davies said, in response to the report. "It's fine for ForestEth-ics to point to the producing sector and say employment is relatively small. However that ignores the over half a million Canadians that depend on the oil and gas industry for their employment."

The analysis, which also used production data in January from OilsandsReview, a publication that focuses on unconventional oil issues, found $11.7 billion of investments in oilsands production between 2007 and 2011 were coming from China, making up about 16 per cent of the total investments of $73.6 billion in that time period.

Alberta's oilsands sector has become a target of many wellorganized environmental campaigns because it requires huge amounts of land, water and energy to extract heavy oil from the natural bitumen deposits in the ground that are considered to make up one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

ForestEthics Advocacy said that its own analysis on owner-ship demonstrates that recent efforts by Harper's government to weaken Canada's environmental protection laws and speed up approval of industrial projects are not in the national interest.

"Since the beginning of the year, our federal government has either cut or gutted every piece of environmental legislation designed to protect our land, air, and water while aggressively pushing for the expansion of the oil-sands and the building of new pipelines, such as the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and supertanker project," concluded the report. "Harper has claimed to do this in the name of Canada's national interest while attacking any-one who disagrees."

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