Self Serve: How Petro-Canada Pumped Canadians Dry


323 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-921912-38-2
DDC 338.7'6223382'0971




Reviewed by Vincent Di Norcia

Vincent di Norcia is an associate professor of philosophy and business
ethics at Laurentian University.


In this paean to private enterprise, Peter Foster takes on Petro-Canada,
Bill Hopper, Ottawa politicians, state intervention, and the other
hobgoblins of the free-market fundamentalist. While he is right to
criticize Petro-Canada’s excesses and losses, Foster would have us
believe that state ownership and political interference are the root
cause. In truth, excess waste and losses are typical of many private
corporations; Petro-Canada, then, may not be far off the North American
corporate norm.

Foster’s faith in the virtues of free markets leads him to denounce
nationalist “paranoia.” The fact is that every oil-producing state
in the world, including the United States, intervenes in the energy
sector to protect its national interests. So for Foster to imply that
Washington would tolerate 56 percent foreign ownership of the U.S. oil
patch (as Canada does) stretches credulity. He would also have us
believe that foreign oil companies would bring more economic benefit and
security of energy supply to Canada than would Canadian firms. Yet
Foster admits that cartels rule the oil patch, and he even praises them
for bringing order to “chaotic” markets. The real choice, then,
appears to be between national control and private cartels.


Foster, Peter., “Self Serve: How Petro-Canada Pumped Canadians Dry,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed October 1, 2023,