The Big Stall

How big oil and think tanks are blocking action on climate change in Canada

by Donald Gutstein

This book explains how energy companies have essentially written the Trudeau government's climate change policies, and what citizens can do to force a rewrite.

In fall 2015, the newly elected Trudeau government endorsed the Paris Agreement and promised to tackle global warming. In 2016, it released a major report which set out a national energy strategy embracing clean growth, technological innovation and carbon pricing. Rather than putting in place tough measures to achieve the Paris targets, however, the government reframed global warming as a market opportunity for Canada's clean technology sector.

The Big Stall traces the origins of the government's climate change plan back to the energy sector itself — in particular Big Oil. It shows how, in the last fifteen years, Big Oil has infiltrated provincial and federal governments, academia, media and the non-profit sector to sway government and public opinion on the realities of climate change and what needs to be done about it.

Working both behind the scenes and in high-profile networks, Canada's energy companies moved the debate away from discussion of the measures required to create a zero-carbon world and towards market-based solutions that will cut carbon dioxide emissions — but not enough to prevent severe climate impacts. This is how Big Oil and think tanks unraveled the Kyoto Protocol, and how Rachel Notley came to deliver the Business Council of Canada's energy plan. Donald Gutstein explains how and why the door has been left wide open for oil companies to determine their own futures in Canada, and to go on drilling new wells, building new oil sands plants and constructing new pipelines.

This book offers the background information readers need to challenge politicians claiming they are taking meaningful action on global warming.

About the Author

Donald Gutstein
DONALD GUTSTEIN is a former professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and co-director of NewsWatch Canada, a media-monitoring project at the school. He is the author of Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada as well as four other books on the links between large corporations, politics and the media. He lives in Vancouver.


"Reporters covering COP26 have obviously not read [Donald Gutstein's book]. That's why they don't understand the game that Trudeau is playing. For Big Oil, the goal is to avoid mandated production cuts at all costs. You'll hear Trudeau talk about an "emissions" cap on the industry but never a "production" cut. It fools the media."

Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight

"Donald Gutstein laid out the dirty history of Justin Trudeau's grand bargain with Big Oil in a devastating 2018 book."

Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight
"Gutstein's painting of how powerful business interests and their propagandists have succeeded in blocking action on climate change is loud, proud and defiantly left wing."
The Tyee

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