By Cody Battershill
What if we competed as hard for Canada’s energy as we did for America’s Amazon?
What if Canadians were as excited about pipelines as they seem to be about attracting the online retail giant’s second headquarters (the so-called HQ2 campaign)?
What if, at the same time Calgary tells Amazon the city would “fight a bear for you,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi were to step up efforts to get our energy resources to tidewater?
And what if our country were to coalesce behind a campaign to promote Canadian oil and gas, the largest single contributor to Canada’s economy, produced to the best environmental standards on Earth?
The giant banners hung on the sides of Seattle offices and the chalk messages on city sidewalks — all of them cleverly promoting the HQ2 campaign — have me thinking: in our city’s collective excitement to snag a web-based behemoth, we’re missing a crucial move.
As energy champion Gwyn Morgan has said, after almost a decade and more than $1 billion spent on planning and regulatory filings, four major Canadian oil-export pipelines remain unbuilt, leaving us with no choice but to sell our oil to U.S. buyers at below world prices. We also find ourselves in the same situation with our natural gas.
The missing move is obvious. We need to get on with building a pipeline.
There’s no questioning the profound economic impact HQ2 will have wherever Amazon decides to build it. And I hope they choose my city out of the nearly 240 submissions they’ve received. After all, Amazon says the new headquarters will bring with it $5 billion of investment.
But judging by how shrill some of these Amazon pitches are, you’d think HQ2 was the only thing standing between these cities and total ruin. The reality is, Amazon’s tech campus is far from the only project on the books with game-changing economic potential.
The now defunct Energy East pipeline would have created 14,000 jobs along its 4,500-kilometre route, invested more than $15.7 billion in construction and operations, added $55 billion to Canada’s GDP, and pumped $10 billion into federal and provincial coffers in the form of taxes.
The recently shelved Pacific NorthWest LNG project in British Columbia had engaged more than 1,100 businesses and spent more than $5.5 billion on upstream investment and an additional $900 million on project development — before regulatory uncertainty killed the project. The total investment of $36 billion never materialized and is likely gone forever.
Then there is the defunct Northern Gateway pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s persistent but much-besieged Trans Mountain expansion project, and the billions of dollars of cancelled or suspended investments across the oilsands and energy sector.
Where were the state-of-the-art publicly funded Amazon-like promotional campaigns for those projects?
Many wonder why Canadian cities are competing so intensely for the opportunity to enrich even further an already dominant American company at the expense of our own competitors. By contrast, Energy East would have been 100 per cent Canadian-owned, and it would have strengthened Canada’s energy security.
We can’t afford to be naive. We need to focus on expanding our job market, on encouraging diverse investment, on providing royalties and taxes for our social programs, and on our mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous and other rural communities.
If Amazon chooses Canada, it will be a transformative economic achievement in which our country should take great pride. But when we show the same passion for fair trade energy as we just have for Amazon, that will be the true game-changer.
That’s when oil and gas — already Canada’s largest single economic contributor — will provide an even larger boost to our economy, our job markets, our communities, our social programs and our incredible way of life.
Cody Battershill is founder and spokesman for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development.
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