EDC is bailing out the fossil fuel industry. Will Canadians be given a full accounting of the costs?

(Above Ground, Ottawa, 4 May 2020) 2020 is a pivotal year for wealthy nations to ramp up their climate action plans, spelling out how they’ll make the deep emissions cuts needed between now and 2030. Instead, states are bolstering the very industries that must be phased out to avert disastrous climate breakdown, as high-carbon sectors push for government aid in response to the economic crisis. Canada’s oil and gas lobby has asked for a bailout of up to $30 billion. On April 17 Ottawa announced a package that includes new loans and guarantees to mid-sized oil and gas firms, to be delivered by Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), as well as funding for clean-up of spent wells and loans for emissions reductions. It also indicated further credit support for the largest oil and gas companies is still being planned. Oil and gas companies also stand to benefit from the aid that Ottawa has made available across sectors, such as the 75% wage subsidy program and the $65 billion Business Credit Availability Program also from EDC and BDC. A broad base of Canadian academics and civil society advocates have argued that economic support measures should directly benefit workers, not companies, and they mustn’t delay the phaseout of an industry that’s fuelling the climate emergency, which already claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Observers have long called attention to the lack of transparency in EDC’s operations, with a recent Globe and Mail exposé reporting a “pattern of secrecy” and “lax supervision” of the agency by the federal government.