Self Serve: How Petro-Canada Pumped Canadians Dry

Self Serve: How Petro-Canada Pumped Canadians Dry

Peter Foster

Subtitled “How Petro-Canada Pumped Canadians Dry,” Self-Serve chronicles the saga of the former Crown corporation privatized in 1991. Noting that the national debt associated with Petrocan is $14 billion and its market value less than $2 billion, the book tackles the question: Where did the money go?

Self-Serve puts the Petrocan story in its international context, tracing the conflicts between oil companies and governments since the turn of the century. It also explains why Petrocan is a uniquely Canadian story taking the reader to the critical Cabinet meetings, boardroom confrontations, and offshore drilling sites where the drama was played out.

“In purely financial terms, Petrocan was a disaster — and when it went public in 1991 and hundreds of people were being sucked in, I figured it was time to tell taxpayers what happened,” says Foster.

To answer the question “where did the money go?,” Foster details how the crown corporation took over a raft of foreign companies, including Pacific, Petrofina, and large chunks of BP and Gulf. Its thrust into refining and marketing, like its frontier exploration, was a financial disaster. Meanwhile, it became a symbol of corporate extravagance: Petrocan had some of the most opulent offices in the West and ran Calgary’s largest fleet of private aircraft.

Says Foster: “I’ve been covering Petro-Canada quite closely since it was created and, frankly, I’ve always been skeptical about it.” In addition to Self-Serve, that long-standing interest has produced three previous best sellers about the oil patch: The Blue-Eyed Sheiks, The Sorcerer’s Apprentices, and Other People’s Money.

About the author:
Among Canada’s foremost business journalists, Foster has covered the oil-and-gas industry since 1976. A contributing editor at Saturday Night and Canadian Business magazines, he has written five major books on Canadian business subjects, including three best sellers on the Canadian oil business.

Formerly a journalist at The Financial Times of London, the Toronto-based author/journalist emigrated to Canada — and began his lengthy career of monitoring Canada’s oil-and-gas industry — in 1976.

1993 Winner