Vivian Krause showing a map of the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Brett Hawes/NNSL photo

Environmental activists bankrolled by the American oil interests through influential charitable trusts pose a serious threat to Canada’s oil and resource industries, including the North.

That was the warning trumpeted by keynote speaker Vivian Krause at the recent NWT Chamber of Commerce AGM in Yellowknife.  

One of the main targets of Krause’s research was Tides Canada, a group active in the North. According to its website, Tide “accelerates the pace of social change, working with innovative partners to solve society’s toughest problems.”

Krause used powerpoint tools to show funding streams from US foundations have been used to to battle Canadian resource projects, principally the Alberta oil sands and Canadian pipelines. Krause linked her theory to the North, referencing the failed Mackenzie Valley pipeline.   

(Low oil prices due to unprecedented US fracking production torpedoed the MVP, not southern environmental/social activists. But that’s OK, you would have to live in the North to know that.)

Tides Canada program lead in Northern Canada, Steve Ellis, was in the crowd and Krause gave him the floor to talk about the diverse role the organization plays in the North. Perhaps Ellis and Tides will share that with our readers at some point.

Full disclosure too, my daughter Shene works part time for Tides, her partner works for the diamond industry. That should balance out any suspicions of self-interest.

As a journalist, I was thinking about the other side of the story Krause wasn’t telling. Far more American and ‘foreign’ money has been spent developing Canadian and Northern resources, amounts that dwarf the pittance Tides or any other foundation can spend in their efforts to protect the environment. Only global companies have the deep pockets we need.

As a marketing person, I was astounded by the lack of effort the resource industry puts into winning the hearts and minds of not only their customers but the people who benefit from their industry. I am not thinking of shareholders but the well-paid employees and supporting businesses, the population who depends on their products.

As it stands now, Tides Canada and like minded environmental activist groups have the floor. At my table someone commented: “Tides is playing the long game.” My reply to that is the resource industry isn’t even in the game. So busy is the industry exploring, developing, operating and producing, they are under the misguided assumption everyone appreciates their hard work.

Our Northern multinational companies – De Beers, Rio Tinto and Dominion Diamonds –  with their allies in the GNWT, do a better job of telling people about the community causes they support and the people they employ.

So rather than calling for some restrictive instrument (regulation?!) to shut Tides down, Krause should be scolding the resource industry for ignoring the people they employ and serve. Tides and similar groups are working to save the planet and make life better. Industry works to keep billions of people alive and make their lives better. How can people decide the balance if both sides of the story are not told?

As for the criticism of the NWT Chamber for inviting the controversial Krause to speak in the first place, their choice is a new and much needed signs of life for the private sector in the NWT. With a new board and president – Jenni Bruce – and executive director – Renée Comeau, it’s time for some more risk taking.

Northern businesses exists to serve Northerners and their success is the best hope for diversifying and strengthening the Northern economy.

Bruce Valpy

Bruce Valpy is former Publisher/CEO of NNSL Media. He can be reached at 1-867-445-2040