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Press release  •  2 min

Who Benefits From the Oil Sands?

Published on 

New report shows a majority of oil sands revenues are funneled to foreign investors

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC)A new investigative report shows revenues from the oil sands are far more likely to line the pockets of foreign investors instead of Canadians, with more than 70 per cent of oil sands production owned by investors and shareholders outside the country’s borders.

The report, released by, Environmental Defence and Équiterre reveals that foreign companies and shareholders are benefiting from huge dividends from the oil sands, while Canadians pay higher subsidies to keep the industry afloat. Rising profit rates for the Big Five oil sands companies—Suncor, CNRL, Cenovus, Imperial Oil and Husky Energy— allowed them to transfer $8 billion to their mostly foreign shareholders in just the first three quarters of 2019. Furthermore, foreign-controlled operational profit doubled from 31.6 to 58.4 per cent between 2012 and 2016, 3.5 times the economy-wide average.

“Premier Kenney has used his bully pulpit to attack Canadians that are concerned about the climate and the toxic mess being left behind by the oil and gas industry of somehow being unpatriotic. This research shows clearly that the majority of revenues from the oilsands are going to foreign investors while Canadians are left paying for the cleanup.” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director for

“The Government of Alberta should stop wasting time and money on war rooms and propping up oil companies like Suncor and CNRL who claim to be Canadian but are sucking this country dry.”

Even before the world was turned upside down by the global pandemic, the oil and gas industry in Canada – despite rising production levels – was cutting jobs and paying less in royalties while demanding higher and higher subsidies. Technological improvements, and modularization of construction resulted in an estimated 58 per cent decrease in capital spending from 2014 through 2019, leading to the termination of 53,000 jobs in the Canadian oil and gas industry.

“Oil and gas companies are delivering lower and lower social benefits to Canadians, with jobs, corporate taxes, and royalties all plummeting even as the industry expands production,” said Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager for Environmental Defence.

“Even before COVID, oil and gas companies were getting rid of workers through mechanization. Those jobs are never coming back.”

The report concludes that it’s time to stop prioritizing the profits of foreign-owned corporations and the interests of their shareholders ahead of the long-term health of Alberta’s and Canada’s workforce, environment and economy. Government policy, including stimulus money and industry bailouts, should invest in the future, not the past. This includes supporting unemployed oil and gas and other Canadian workers and investing in a diversified, clean energy economy that will provide employment opportunities and public services for the long-term.

“This report shows that the benefits of the oil and gas industry to Canadian society keep declining. At this pivotal moment in our history, when the government is planning to invest billions of dollars in the economy, it is more important than ever to support workers to diversify our economy and make it more sustainable and resilient.” said Caroline Brouillette, Senior Climate Analyst for Équiterre.


For more information or to arrange an interview:
Anthony Côté-Leduc, Media Relations, Équiterre, - 514-605-2000