Canadians watching Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election might be tempted to find comfort in their assumption that such foreign interference could never happen here.

Except it already has. And while the Russian government denies interfering in American political affairs, the U.S.-funded environmental activists who meddled in Canadian elections have publicly trumpeted their success in devising and executing their plan to elect who they wanted.

This story has all the elements of a fiction novel. Unfortunately it’s real. Piece by meticulously researched piece, B.C.-based independent researcher Vivian Krause spent almost 10 years exposing the story. Every detail has been corroborated, including with American and Canadian tax records, together with documents and statements from the perpetrators themselves.

The story begins in 2008, when a group of radical American anti-fossil-fuel NGOs created their “Tar Sands Campaign Strategy 2.1” designed explicitly “to landlock the Canadian oil sands by delaying or blocking the expansion or development of key pipelines.” A list of strategic targets included: “educating and organizing First Nations to challenge construction of pipelines across their traditional territories” and bringing “multiple actions in Canadian federal and provincial courts.” A “raising the negatives” section involved recruiting celebrity spokespersons such as Leonardo Di Caprio to “lend their brand to opponents of tar sands and generating a high negative media profile for tar sands oil.”

The Tar Sands Campaign had this quote from team leader Michael Marx on its website: “The controversy from the campaign contributed to political victories at the provincial and national level in 2015 and led to bold climate commitments by Canadian leaders.” After Krause reported it in a January CBC interview, it disappeared from the site.

What would become a massively disruptive intrusion into Canadian affairs would take years and a large amount of money. Enter the Rockefeller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. They, along with environmentalist charities, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S.-based Tides Foundation, a murky organization that funnels donations into activist groups.

Since both American and Canadian tax laws require charities to document receipt and disbursement of funds (although there is much more transparency and detail required under U.S. law), Krause was able to gather irrefutable evidence that tens of millions of dollars were transferred from Tides U.S. to its Tides Canada affiliate. Moreover, Krause was able to obtain 70 covering letters showing the recipients and how they used the funds.

They went towards mobilizing First Nations against the fear of oil spills, including payments to help build “indigenous solidarity resistance to pipeline routes,” to maintain “opposition to oil tankers” and to “provide legal support for actions constraining tar sands development.” Funding also went to the Great Bear Initiative Society to build support for designating the so-called “Spirit Bear” habitat as a nature reserve, which eventually became part of the Liberal government’s rationale for banning oil tankers off B.C.’s north coast.

‘True Canadian patriot’ Krause.

Payments went to the Pembina Institute to “advance…the narrative that oil sands expansion is problematic”; to Greenpeace Canada “for events to show opposition to pipelines and tar sands expansion”; to the Living Oceans Society “to build opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline”; and to Forest Ethics “to conduct education and outreach opposing the Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway pipelines.”

But the American anti-oilsands funding effort didn’t stop at encouraging opposition to oil pipelines. The Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative received millions of dollars from Tides Canada to run get-out-the-vote campaigns in the 2017 B.C. provincial election, including deploying a throng of campaign workers in the riding of Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. After his election, the B.C. government wound up in the hands of an NDP/Green alliance bent on fighting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Money was also funneled to campaign activists working to help the Liberals win the 2015 federal election. Vancouver-based Leadnow received directly and through the B.C.-based Sisu Institute more than $1 million from Tides Canada to actively work for the defeat of then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which supported expanding the oil and gas industry. 

All that American funding materially contributed to the defeat of the Harper Conservatives and the election of an ideologically anti-oilsands Liberal government. Leadnow claims its campaigners helped defeat Conservative candidates in 25 ridings. Until recently the website of the Tar Sands Campaign featured this boastful quote from team leader Michael Marx: “The controversy from the campaign contributed to political victories at the provincial and national level in 2015 and led to bold climate commitments by Canadian leaders.” (After Krause reported the quote in a January interview with the CBC’s Wendy Mesley on her nation-wide show The Weekly, Marx’s quote disappeared from the campaign’s site. The episode is very much worth watching.)

But the campaigners received a bonus beyond their wildest dreams when newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed one of their most dedicated eco-warriors as his principal secretary. Prior to ascending to the most powerful post in the Prime Minister’s Office, from 2008 to 2012 Gerald Butts was president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF Canada), an important Tides campaign partner. Butts would use his new position to bring other former campaigners with him: Marlo Raynolds‏, chief of staff to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, is past executive director of the Tides-backed Pembina Institute. Zoë Caron, chief of staff to Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi, is also a former WWF Canada official. Sarah Goodman, on the prime minister’s staff, is a former vice-president of Tides Canada. With these anti-oil activists at the epicentre of federal power, it’s no wonder the oil industry, and hundreds of thousands of workers, have plummeted into political and policy purgatory.

The Tar Sands Campaign’s agents in Ottawa: (L-R) Butts, Raynolds, Goodman, Caron.

Butts, the primary architect of this economic and social disaster and national-unity crisis has now resigned amid a scandal alleging inappropriate favours for SNC-Lavalin. I wonder if this resignation will pay as well as the last one: when Butts resigned from WWF Canada in 2012 to help plot Trudeau’s rise to power, Krause discovered that he subsequently received two separate payments from WWF Canada totalling $361,642. When Krause asked him about it, he explained in a May 26, 2016 tweet that: “It was my contract severance.” That’s startling. Over my entire career leading one of Canada’s largest companies and serving as a director of four others, I have never heard of “severance” paid when someone decided to quit.

But then, in a way, Butts never did. He would prove to be as or more useful to the anti-oilsands activists at WWF Canada and other hard-core environmental groups being inside the government, rather than outside it. From one job to the next, he never stopped fighting Alberta’s oilpatch.

That is the latest sorrowful chapter in this scandalous story — a story that never could have been told without the determination of Vivian Krause, a true Canadian patriot who dedicated 10 years to uncovering the truth.

Gwyn Morgan is the retired CEO and chairman of Encana Corp. This article first appeared in the Financial Post.