Last week, journalist Mike De Souza published his final article for Postmedia News. The outlet closed its Parliamentary Bureau dismissing De Souza and four other employees amid a scandalous revelation that senior staff are colluding with Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), to shift the national conversation to more positively reflect on the energy industry, particularly Alberta's oilsands.
De Souza’s final piece fittingly covered an internal memo that showed the Harper government was warned back in 2011 that a massive increase in oil-by-rail transport was impending, given the rate of oil production in the oilsands outstripped Canada’s pipeline capacity. The Harper government, despite such cautions, failed to address the safety concerns associated with such sharp growth in oil tanker train traffic. Two years later, the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic killed 47 people.
There’s no question that Mike De Souza has been crucial to the survival of investigative journalism on energy and environment in Canada over the last several years. His work has exposed government and industry collusion, shining a light behind closed doors and serving the public interest. He has detailed high-level climate change denial, suppression of scientists and environmental regulations and the high level of orchestration between the Harper government and the oil, gas and pipeline industries in the creation of the infamous Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.
Ultimately, De Souza’s reporting has provided Canadians with a critical counter-narrative to Harper government spin when it comes to climate, energy and the environment.
Here’s a list of just 20 stories worth highlighting and remembering from De Souza’s career with Postmedia News:
Climate denial and killing Kyoto
Thanks to a generous donation from a major oil and gas company, an anti-Kyoto Protocol group sets up some “research” accounts at the University of Calgary. Fighting through multiple freedom of information requests and a legal challenge, Postmedia News obtained hundreds of pages of receipts, letters and other evidence revealing that the money was used for ads during an election campaign, lobbying, marketing, travel, wining and dining, with donors eligible for tax receipts for charitable contributions.
The goal of the so-called research was to cast doubt on scientific evidence showing that the consumption of fossil fuels and other human activity was causing global warming and push the government to withdraw from the international Kyoto agreement on climate change.
This series of stories earned a citation at the 2012 National Newspaper Awards in the “investigations” category.
Spin, PR and delays
Former Stephen Harper adviser Bruce Carson left the prime minister’s office and took over a University of Calgary based “think tank” with a fresh $15 million federal grant. He proceeded to change the research mandate of the Canada School of Energy and Environment (CSEE) so that it could contribute to a lobbying and marketing strategy to green the image of the oil and gas industry.
The plan was elaborate, involving secret meetings between government officials, industry reps from companies such as Exxon Mobil or BP, and diplomats. Their goal: to lobby foreign governments, to “kill” international action on climate change, and to ensure “the oil keeps a-flowing” from Alberta.
Reckless Resource Development
Days before announcing Canada would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the federal government drafted plans for a “strong and coordinated” public relations campaign and major regulatory reforms to promote oil and pipeline industry expansion, say personal notes drafted by the top bureaucrat at Natural Resources Canada. His minister, Joe Oliver, was in the midst of getting briefed about what was at stake, as the federal Conservatives planned billions of dollars in cuts across the government, affecting scientists who monitored the impacts of industrial activity and eliminating thousands of federal environmental reviews of projects.
Do you have a favorite story of Mike De Souza's that we didn't include here? Let us know in the comments section.