The intensifying development of Western Canada’s fossil fuel resources has far-reaching implications for our economic and ecological wellbeing, the acceleration of global climate change, and the rights and title of Aboriginal peoples. Extractive corporations play a central role in decision-making about how we manage these resources — yet the industry’s evolving organization and reach are not well understood, nor are they easily visible to citizens or other key publics. Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector brings academic researchers, civil society organizations, and Aboriginal participants together to study corporate influence in a sector central to global and Canadian political economies and ecologies.
This interdisciplinary community-university partnership will create research tools that are broadly accessible; develop evidence-based recommendations for democratizing economic and political decision-making in this sector; and contribute to informed and transparent public discourse about Canada’s carbon resources. We will do so in a manner that draws citizens into dialogue and enhances the capacity of civil society and First Nations to research and monitor corporate power, thereby enriching democratic life in Canada.
Our comprehensive mapping of the carbon-extractive sector will be conducted within four interrelated research streams. We will:
- Analyze the social, political and economic organization of the carbon-extractive sector by gathering data on corporate ownership and management and their wider national and transnational networks;
- Investigate corporate influence by looking at links between the corporate realm, the state and civil society, and the strategies and frames used by corporations and industry groups to shape public discourse (including via news media);
- Map the carbon commodity chains along which corporate power is exercised, from extraction to final consumption, and examine flashpoints where corporate activities become highly contentious; and,
- Develop a publicly-accessible online corporate database and network visualization tool that continues to be maintained and enhanced well beyond the 6-year formal partnership by a trained network of “wiki” users who update and add new data.
Our research actively involves academic co-applicants and collaborators, community partners, and a diverse group of advisors from the environmental, Aboriginal, and labour communities in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Academic and community partners from each of these provinces are also centrally involved in the partnership’s governance structure.
Our work will result in a rich body knowledge made publicly available through open-source publications that serve as points of engagement with media, policy makers, communities affected by carbon extraction or transport (including First Nations), civil society groups, and the broad public. The interactive online corporate database and mapping tool will enable research and collaboration by citizens, civil society groups, and academics, who will receive training and support as we develop a community of wiki contributors, and will be a valuable tool for journalists. Co-applicants, collaborators, and students will be trained and supported as public intellectuals, enabling them to actively contribute to public discussions about Canada’s energy policies. The partnership will also connect with related initiatives underway elsewhere and an emerging global network of researchers using digital technologies to produce and mobilize knowledge about corporate power.