Oil sands lobby group facing Competition Act complaint over false and misleading claims

Date: March 16, 2023
Complete Article: Richochet Media (Public Interest Journalism)


A coalition of Canada’s six largest oil sands companies is facing a new complaint with the Competition Bureau for an advertising campaign that Greenpeace Canada says is spreading dangerous climate disinformation.

In Pathways Alliance’s recent “let’s clear the air” campaign that launched in August 2022, the coalition…  is depicted as a climate leader, taking steps to address the climate crisis.

Greenpeace Canada says in its complaint that this is both false and misleading. The ad campaign is actually trying to shift public opinion to support the continued operation of oil sands production, as well as convince politicians to create a regulatory and subsidy landscape that helps their business and blocks climate action.

The Competition Bureau enforces the Competition Act, which contains provisions to address false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices.

“These advertisements are not just scientifically inaccurate, they are a moral hazard at this moment in history. They are designed to subdue concern, to create political support for increased expansion of some of the highest carbon oil on Earth.”

The “let’s clear the air” campaign acknowledges climate change, but claims that Pathways Alliance is “part of the solution.” This is untrue — the oil produced from Canada’s oil sands is actually some of the most environmentally damaging and energy intensive on the planet.

“There’s a reason why they run these ads. Because they work. They change consumers’ ideas and attitudes about fossil fuels,” said Dr. Melissa Lem, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) previously told Ricochet.

“These efforts [to complain about the ads] are really necessary,” said Levin. “Oil and gas companies know that the public can’t be expected to understand the nuances of what ‘net zero’ means. They’re taking advantage of that and they’re misleading people intentionally, so it’s really important that we crack down on that and take away their ability to mislead the public.”

Vittal said the campaign to challenge greenwashing messages in Canada is increasingly gaining momentum. Supporters of the most recent complaint are calling on the government to take action.

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