The Trudeau government’s greenwashing crackdown is a descent into Orwellian doublethink

Bill Whitelaw“We are the dead.”
“You are the dead.”

Those two lines from George Orwell’s famed novel 1984 are perhaps the most profound in the entire work. They capture Orwell’s disturbing sense of despair over what he perceived as authoritarianism run amok in the late 1940s. Seventy-five years later, these sentences resonate eerily with contemporary concerns about governmental overreach and politicians who treat voters as mere mindless pawns.

The lament came as protagonist Winston Smith declared to his furtive companion, Julia, the hopelessness of life in a dystopian society under constant and repressive surveillance and “truth adjustments.” The robotically metallic response to his declaration, emanating from a microphone hidden behind a picture in his quarters, affirmed Smith’s belief that Big Brother (The Party) is everywhere. Watching everyone. Thinking for everyone.

trudeau greenwashing Competition Act
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This scenario is reminiscent of how the Trudeau government is running Canada today. ‘Don’t worry about thinking for yourselves, good citizens, that’s the Cabinet’s job. We are Truth.’ In Orwell’s terms, the ‘Party’ and Smith’s country, Oceania, are equivalent to the Liberals and contemporary Canada.

Sound over-the-top? Maybe. Melodramatic? Perhaps. But that’s how insidious mind management takes root when you’re oblivious to its subtleties. It’s time for Canadians to dust off Orwell’s final novel and reacquaint themselves with his tenets on mind control. In other words, consider the Liberal penchant for “doublethink,” the Orwellian notion of accepting two contradictory lies as compatible truths.

The Trudeau government’s version of doublethink is this: only progressives can think pragmatically about climate change; all other views can be dismissed as faux vert (fake green) – even when there’s data to support the latter. To wit: Ottawa’s planned amendments to Canada’s Competition Act. Ottawa seeks to strengthen existing rules around greenwashing, specifically focusing on misleading claims about positive environmental impact.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea, especially given the rapid pace of climate and net-zero initiatives and the inevitable hucksters they attract. However, instead of intellectualizing the process and giving voters credit for some smarts, the government effectively signals it considers them incapable of critical and rational thought. In other words, they are unable to separate green fact from green fiction.

The changes are nebulous and useful only to environmental groups revelling in the legislation’s ambiguous vagueness. These groups are doubly joyful with its enhanced opportunities for private action – essentially a license to push their causes without real accountability. The changes leave no room for “citizen interrogation” of the “facts” as presented and normalize the perception that anyone who is not an evangelical environmentalist claiming to do good for the environment is somehow up to something nefarious.

Although all sectors and services are under the same green magnifying glass, the oil and gas sector is particularly alarmed, and rightly so. Supporters of the planned amendments to Canada’s Competition Act mock and deride the concerns of those in the energy sector who worry that it gives unaccountable power to industry opponents. They dismiss concerns that the changes will stultify investment in the sector and erode progress made on clean technology initiatives.

Their argument that the Act’s language contains no specific references to oil and gas fails to recognize the broader implications. There are nuances and subtleties that make the Competition Act worrisome for anyone who values the free flow of information, which underpins rigorous and balanced discourse. The “new” Act may well choke off critical information.

Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry has its perception problems and often reacts with unnecessary outrage. Some voices within the industry fail to understand that they are seen as a monolithic entity rather than a complex mosaic of leaders and laggards. While the leaders are making science-based achievements in mitigating environmental impact, they are not effectively policing the laggards, which contributes to their bad-apple reputation.

The leaders are making significant progress in areas like emissions reduction and water stewardship, achievements that the public should know about. Canada, and particularly Alberta, are admired internationally for their progress on key environmental issues. Yet, energy companies and organizations are now silenced, with websites shuttered and information hidden behind firewalls due to legal uncertainties.

This lack of access leaves ordinary Canadians without important information necessary for critical thought. Industry opponents have gained the upper hand in the discourse with little effort. The “new” Competition Act ostensibly addresses marketing in the public domain, but what constitutes marketing these days? All content is technically a form of marketing.

Bill Whitelaw is a director and advisor to many industry boards, including the Canadian Society for Evolving Energy, which he chairs. He speaks and comments frequently on social licence, innovation and technology, and energy supply networks.

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The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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