An energy superpower or a super sales pitch? Building the case through an examination of Canadian newspapers coverage of oil sands

Laura Way


In 2006, Stephen Harper boldly pronounced Canada as an “emerging energy superpower” to a variety of international audiences, including at the G8 meeting in London. While this label is likely more representative of a marketing campaign than reality (Hester, 2007), it is important to understand the degree to which the Canadian media has embraced it. This paper determines the extent to which Canada’s national newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post, and its largest paper, the Toronto Star, adopted the “energy superpower” frame in their reporting about Alberta’s oil sands over a 25-month period. The oil sands were selected as a case study because proponents of Canada as an “energy superpower” cite the development of Alberta’s oil sands as a key component of the country’s new-found status. To discover how this new label was intertwined into the broader discourse on oil sands development, I used content and discourse analysis to examine newspaper stories over 300 words in length that contain “oil sands” or “tar sands” in the lead paragraph and/or headline. While my study found few instances of news stories containing the term, it did find that these newspapers more closely adopted Harper’s underlying ideas about what an energy superpower is than the more activist government traditionally associated with the term


oil sands; newspapers; energy superpower

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125