Several factors have brought the control of energy resources to the forefront in Canada, to a degree not seen since the debates over the National Energy Program in the 1980s. The role of oil in the US/UK war against Iraq; growing fears that the world is nearing "peak oil" (the moment when extraction begins to decline); this summer’s fuel price spikes; the shutdown of refineries by Hurricane Katrina; and the growing significance of the Athabasca oil sands; all have combined to make more Canadians aware that control over this vital resource is crucial to our economic future.
Aljost half of Canadians now support public ownership of the oil and gas industry, a policy been advocated for decades by the Communist Party of Canada. A survey conducted in late August, even before fuel prices hit record highs, found that 49 per cent of respondents wanted petroleum resources nationalized, and that 43 per cent favoured the same option for gas companies. The Central Executive of the CPC urges all parties in Parliament to act upon this demand, which is crucial to stop corporate profit-gouging, to stop the further erosion of living standards for working people, and to save Canadian sovereignty and independence now and for future generations.
The Communist Party calls for immediate action to cap energy prices, especially for home heating, for emergency assistance to truckers facing huge increases in operating costs, and for a substantial "windfall profit tax" on large oil and gas companies, which have amassed unconscionably high profits at the expense of working people and small businesses. During the second quarter of 2005 alone, for example, Shell, Imperial Oil and Petrocanada reported a total of $1.5 billion in profits in Canada.
The present situation also poses another danger — the fanning of reactionary, western separatist ideas by the largely US-dominated energy industry, which wants to head off any government action which could halt their profiteering. Alberta’s Tory government cynically hopes to use this sentiment and its resource wealth as weapons to force right-wing policies upon the rest of Canada, such as opening the door for wider privatization of health care and education.
Therefore, the Communist Party calls for policy initiatives designed to strengthen Canadian sovereignty, to break the domination of the energy transnationals, and to improve the lives of working people. As the price of oil skyrockets, the vast Athabasca oil sands, as well as other oil and natural gas deposits (mainly in western Canada) become increasingly valuable resources, which must not be left in the hands of the transnationals and the provincial governments. Canada’s natural energy resources are the common wealth of the Canadian people as a whole, and resource sharing must be an integral part of the resolution of land claims of Aboriginal peoples, from whom lands and resources were seized.
We demand nationalization and democratic control of the oil and gas industry, starting with reversal of the privatisation of PetroCanada. Energy sellouts such as the impending takeover of Terasen by Texas-based Kinder Morgan should be blocked by the federal government. The drive to privatize Ontario Hydro and other public utilities must be decisively blocked.
The Communist Party believes that Canadian resources should be used to build strong and sustainable industries which can be the cornerstone of the economy, shifting from the export of raw materials, towards job creation through adding value to such products. Instead of north-south hydro grids which lock Canada into the U.S. economy, we should expand power flows between provinces, shifting towards an east-west power grid serving the needs of the Canadian economy.
Revenues from public ownership of the oil and gas industry would allow scope to develop made-in-Canada policies designed to reduce fossil fuel consumption, such as a massive expansion of public transit systems coupled with lower fares, and greatly increased funding for publicly-owned alternative, reneweal energy sources. Such programs could allow Canada to surpass our Kyoto targets and become a world leader in reduction of ozone-depleting gases and hydrocarbons.
To achieve these goals, Canada must break out of pro-corporate trade deals. The treacherous NAFTA agreement, which prevents Canada from reducing oil exports to the United States or from setting lower domestic prices, must be abrogated immediately. Instead of integrating further into a U.S.-dominated "Fortress North America", Canada needs diverse, sustainable, and mutually beneficial trade based on respect for the economic, political, social and cultural sovereignty of all countries.
Canada is reaching a critical moment in our history. Failure to bring energy resources under public ownership could soon spell the end of any meaningful degree of Canadian sovereignty and independence. We urge the labour movement, and all progressive and democratic forces, to press Parliament for nationalization of oil and gas, before it’s too late!