Competition Bureau receives ask to ‘expedite’ guidance on controversial ‘greenwashing’ law

The Competition Bureau said Bill C-59 would strengthen its ability to police deceptive environmental claims by oil and gas companies, threatening significant fines for contravening the bill.

Competition Bureau receives ask to ‘expedite’ guidance on controversial ‘greenwashing’ law
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick and The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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Censorship legislation aiming to silence oil and gas companies will seek the guidance of the Competition Bureau to curb ‘greenwashing.'

The amendments require companies to substantiate environmental claims made to promote a product or business interest.

A previously attempted private member's bill C-372, An Act respecting fossil fuel advertising, aimed to ban positive messaging of fossil fuels. NDP MP Charlie Angus sponsored the bill.

It proposed restrictions on industry professionals, advertisers and media companies “deceiving or misleading with respect to the environmental and health hazards of using fossil fuels.” 

Though Bill C-372 failed to make ground, last-minute amendments to the latest Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the fall economic statement, threatened significant individual and corporate fines.

Under Bill C-59, individuals could be fined up to $750,000, or three times the amount of any financial benefit gained, whichever is greater. 

Companies could face fines of $10 million or three times the financial benefit. If that figure is unknown, a company may have to pay 3% of worldwide revenues.

The Competition Bureau said the legislation would strengthen its ability to police deceptive claims.

Meanwhile, the federal watchdog has received numerous requests to develop guidance “on an accelerated basis.” They intend to launch a public consultation in the coming weeks.

CBC News reports that Pathways Alliance, a group of oil and gas companies, removed all content from its website and social media platforms last Thursday. They bemoaned “uncertainty” on the Competition Act amendments. 

“With uncertainty on how the new law will be interpreted and applied, any clarity the Competition Bureau can provide through specific guidance may help direct our communications approach in the future,” the website reads. 

“For now, we have removed content from our website, social media and other public communications.”

The Pathways Alliance includes Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Canada, Imperial Oil Ltd., MEG Energy Corp. and Suncor Energy Inc.  

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet told reporters earlier they are considering a Sovereignty Act motion to oppose the federal law.

“Ironically, this kind of absurd authoritarian censorship will only work to stifle many billions in investments in emissions reducing technologies — the very technologies the world needs to reduce emissions while avoiding energy poverty for billions around the world,” reads a joint statement.

“Canadians were immediately outraged, and the bill was laughed away as being just plain crazy,” said Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz in another statement.

“Any company not willing to risk millions of dollars in fines and legal fees will be forced to stay silent.”

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