UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Politics and power : petroleum policy in British Columbia Jackson, Dale L.


This thesis examines the determinants of petroleum policy in British Columbia. The vast financial stakes in the petroleum sector, and the upheaval the sector has undergone in the past twenty years, ensure the participation of the most powerful actors in attempting to influence policy in their favor. The thesis examines two specific case studies: (1) the long running dispute over ownership and jurisdiction of Canada's western offshore region, and (2) the radical shifts in natural gas pricing in British Columbia. Four theoretical explanations of policy formation are utilized: party and ideology, Marxism, state autonomy, and internationalism. Party and ideology involves the belief that the political party in power is able to affect the policy process, and that parties have policy preferences based on ideological differences between the parties' members or electoral supporters. The Marxist analysis of capitalist society sees the owners of the means of production as the dominant class, and thus government policy is designed to favor this class. State autonomy focuses on the ability of state actors and/or institutions to affect the policy process in ways that entrench and expand the interests of government actors. Finally, internationalism holds that forces and conditions outside of the polity being studied influence, and may even dominate, domestic policy formation. It is concluded that all four variables play some role in determining policy, but that two of these are paramount. Both the statist impulses generated by the unique variant of federalism found in Canada, and the ability of the petroleum industry to influence the provincial and federal governments, are indispensable in understanding petroleum policy in British Columbia. There is a balance of power between these three sets of actors, each able to put its stamp on policy, but none able to dominate completely.

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