CAPE Statement on the Tabling of a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons to Ban Fossil-Fuel Advertising

OTTAWA/Traditional, Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg, February 6, 2024 – The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) welcomes the introduction of the “Fossil Fuel Advertising Ban” legislation by Charlie Angus, New Democratic Party Critic for Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Timmins–James Bay, and calls on all Members of Parliament to support this important legislation and ensure its speedy passage into law.

The need for an advertising ban is clear and urgent: every year fossil-fuel pollution is directly linked to 34 000 premature deaths in Canada and over 8 million globally. Many more Canadians will also suffer negative health impacts – including conditions such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular and respiratory disorders as a result of toxic emissions. Shockingly, Canada has the third highest global rate of new childhood asthma cases from traffic pollution, following Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The United Nations has estimated that in 2018 alone, air pollution from fossil fuels caused $2.9 trillion in health and economic costs; that works out to a staggering $8 billion a day. This is without considering deaths from climate related events, like the heat dome in BC in 2021 that claimed 600 lives.

This private members bill is an important step in addressing this national public health crisis and the campaign of disinformation from the oil and gas industry that is making the problem worse. The bill uses the Health Act in the same way that Canada used it to effectively address misleading advertising from Big Tobacco, lowering adult smoking rates from 50% to under 15% today and saving countless lives. The ban proved a cost effective way for the government to have a remarkable impact on the problem.

The introduction of the bill responds to the CAPE-led campaign for a fossil-fuel ad-ban launched in 2022, their petition presented to Parliament last year and a letter to Ministers backed by a broad coalition of over 35 organizations representing over 700,000 health professionals in Canada.

The campaign calls out the oil and gas industry’s ‘greenwashing’ in the same way that physicians successfully advocated against tobacco’s lies regarding the health risks of their products. Greenwashing refers to the odious advertising practice of pretending to be environmentally friendly rather than actually minimizing environmental impact, and promoting fossil-fuels while side-stepping their serious health risks.

The burning of fossil fuels represents a much more serious health risk to Canadians than the tobacco industry, which makes the greenwashing of oil and gas industry ads even more egregious. Those most impacted are children, the elderly and poor and Indigenous populations.

People in Canada are also experiencing devastating climate-related events like forest fires, heatwaves and floods more often and more intensely. These events have claimed thousands of lives in recent years and they will continue to claim many more in the years ahead as extreme weather events worsen.

The federal government’s top priority should be protecting Canadians’ health. To that end, fossil fuel companies shouldn’t be allowed to pollute our air the way they do, and they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to promote their harmful products and lie about the risks to the Canadians who will pay for it – many of them with poorer health and even their lives.

The industry’s deliberate deception is clearly documented. For example, a recent report from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Yale University found that actual emissions from oilsands production were as much as 64 times higher than those reported by industry. The Competition Act is meant to ban businesses from making false or misleading claims in Canada, CAPE complaints have led to three active investigations by the Competition Bureau into the Pathways Alliance, Canadian Gas Association, and Enbridge Gas for these misleading practices, but these cases take years to resolve while emissions continue.

Like Big Tobacco before them, Big Oil companies are well aware of the harmful impacts they are compounding but are using record profits to support massive ad campaigns that not only mislead Canadians, but harm their health. We must end this practice now, and it begins with all-party support of this private Member’s bill. The health and wellbeing of all Canadians depends on it.

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Read about the health impacts of fossil-fuel pollution and deceptive advertising:
Fossil-Fuel Pollution is Killing Canadians and Big Oil is Lying About It

For more information, please contact:
Sabrina Bowman, Interim Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)