It might be a new year but it’s the same old dirty tricks from the folks at the very unethical

They are running an advertising campaign accusing leading Canadian environmental groups of being “front groups” paid by “Foreign special interests”.

At the same time they have launched a highly misleading website called, which asks people to stop “foreign billionaires from sabotaging Canada’s national interest!”

Both the adverts and website are so misleading it is nearly laughable. Trying to argue that respected environmental organisations such as the Pembina Institute or Environmental Defence Canada are somehow front organisations for American billionaires is so off the mark that it should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

It is also conveniently forgetting that in the debate on oil and climate it is the oil industry and its cronies who have a history of setting up front organisations and not the other way around.

Many of the tactics that oil industry used – such as the use of front groups and the delaying tactics over settled science – were learnt from the tobacco industry.  And don’t forget either that the man behind EthicalOil, Ezra Levant, is himself an ex-tobacco lobbyist.

So you know that anything he or EthicalOil writes should be taken with a bucketful of salt, starting with the obvious fact that the tar sands aren’t ethical at all.

What is worrying the pro-tar sands proponents is that the Canadian federal government’s hearings into the Northern Gateway Pipeline begin next week, and they are losing the argument.

With their backs against the wall they have no other option but to fight dirty.

So we have Kathryn Marshall, the spokesman for arguing “Whether or not Canada decides to build this pipeline is a Canadian decision, based on Canadian interests — not the political interests of foreigners or their Canadian puppets. Let’s have a national discussion about this — but foreign billionaires and their local lobbyists should butt out.”

You could argue that the likes of Marshall are local lobbyists for the billionaire oil boys who are exploiting the tar sands.  So maybe she should butt out the debate first.

But more importantly the EthicalOil lot are losing the argument in Canada itself. A recent poll suggests opposition to the two pipelines – the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway is widespread in Canada, rather than a “fringe cause”, according to Canada’s Financial Post.

The independent poll was conducted last month and shows that half of Canadians oppose the Keystone XL pipeline plan, with the strongest opposition among Quebecers, Ontarians and British Columbians.

The poll also shows that half of Canadians oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline, with opposition strongest in the same provinces.

No wonder Marshall, Levant and EthicOil are worried.

“Although the Northern Gateway project would allow Canada to gain entry into major oil markets outside of the United States, many Canadians are currently pushing for the proposal to be shelved,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Toronto-based Forum Research, which conducted the survey.

So the bottom line is that the pro-tar sands, pro-pipeline proponents are losing the argument internationally and they are losing it in Canada. Hence the smears and dirty tactics. They have nothing left to give to the debate.