Excavating CBC’s Docudrama The Tar Sands


  • Patrick McCurdy University of Ottawa




This article examines the political controversy around the banned 1977 CBC docudrama _The Tar Sands_, which portrays the personal and political struggle of Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed to secure the Syncrude agreement to develop Alberta’s bitumen sands. Immediately following the docudrama’s broadcast, Lougheed launched a lawsuit which ultimately resulted in the show’s expulsion from CBC archives. While the CBC docudrama sought to dramatize and elevate political critiques of the tar sands, Lougheed’s litigious reaction quickly buried them, obfuscating the real possibility that The Tar Sands—while a work of fiction—portrays the genesis of Alberta’s corporate capture by foreign oil.

Author Biography

Patrick McCurdy, University of Ottawa

Patrick McCurdy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Ottawa. His research draws from media and communication, social movement studies, and environmental communication to study the media as a site and source of struggle. Since 2014, Patrick has focussed on the polarized debate over Canada’s energy future with a particular interest in Alberta’s bitumen sands. Patrick is currently completing a research project on the 1977 CBC docudrama The Tar Sands. He is the co-author of Protest Camps (Zed, 2013) and the co-editor of three books, including Protest Camps in International Context (Policy Press, 2017).


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How to Cite

McCurdy, P. (2022). Excavating CBC’s Docudrama The Tar Sands. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, 13(1), 81–106. https://doi.org/10.17742/IMAGE.PM.13.1.6