By Mark Scholz (firstname.lastname@example.org)President of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors
The Hitch - May 2016 Vol. 14 NO. 2 Edition
The Oil Respect campaign was born of the conviction that Hollywood celebrities, radical environmentalists, and misinformed politicians were misleading Canadians about the oil and gas industry. Our goal is to both correct the record and to give those Canadians who support the industry a voice. That voice is being heard. In the wake of the Fort McMurray wildfire, we are also being introduced to the real people behind this industry as they struggle to pull their lives back together. For now they need places to stay. Over the medium term they need a vibrant industry.
Not long ago the rhetoric from provincial and federal governments favored slowing and even shutting down oil and gas development. They opposed pipelines and supported a ban on tanker traffic on British Columbia’s northern coast. Sometimes they displayed a contempt for those who thought otherwise.
Canadians who had the temerity to defend the industry were criticized and even shouted down for not caring about the environment, for only caring about money and for being in the pockets of big oil.
But eventually the facts matter. Thanks to the thousands of Canadians who have stood behind the Oil Respect campaign and other campaigns like Canada Action and Canada’s Energy Citizens, more and more Canadians are being introduced to the reality of Canada’s oil and gas industry.
What is the reality? Well, 500,000 people work in the oil and gas industry, directly and indirectly. All Canadians benefit from the jobs, profits, and government revenues the industry produces. Finally and just as important as the economic benefits, Canada produces oil and gas that meets the world’s toughest climate, environmental, safety, and labour standards.
Any time a new project is proposed, oil and gas producers and pipeline companies go through extended and detailed consultation processes to ensure communities are informed and their concerns heard. Input is gathered from thousands of people. Experts provide their insights. The final submissions contain thousands of pages of documentation, expert testimony and the views of those who would be impacted.
Once approved, companies then provide skills training in local communities and actively help local small businesses organize themselves to serve as suppliers on the project. First Nations communities are some of the biggest beneficiaries. The oil and gas industry is Canada’s largest employer of First Nations workers.
Companies also provide hundreds of millions of dollars to community projects like hockey arenas, community centres, and playgrounds; projects that benefit communities for decades into the future.
Given these facts it’s perhaps understandable why supporters of the industry feel disrespected, and we have heard the frustration as we meet people in the communities who have felt the double blow of a difficult economy and hostility toward their industry from political leaders.
But now that Canadians are coming to know the facts, politicians are also shifting their positions. The drop in the price of oil has severely hurt government revenues, underlining the arguments that oil and gas supporters have made all along.
Canadians and those they elect are seeing the people behind the industry and are coming to understand that Canada leads the world in the environmentally responsible production of oil and gas.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s tone has also changed which encouraging, if not nearly enough. Words and assurances ring hollow without action. The most important thing governments can do today is to state, unequivocally that building pipelines to bring Canadian oil and gas to market is a priority. In order to lend support to this flagging industry and send a clear message to Canadians and the rest of the world that we are proud to be a leader in responsible energy development, the Pacific Northwest LNG project must be approved and the reviews of the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipeline projects must be expedited.
Canada is in a global competition to attract investment but we are sending investors the wrong message. Right now we are forcing investors who want Canadian oil and gas to look elsewhere as we slow down our already lengthy and thorough review processes. That means jobs, profits, and government revenues are lost to oil producing counties that often have few or no environmental standards. In other words their oil pushes out Canadian oil, and the environment and Canadian workers lose out.
We need federal and provincial governments to send the right message. Once again, we call on the federal government to stand up for this 100,000 plus unemployed Canadian oil and gas workers the respect they deserve by allowing these projects to move forward without further delay.