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An Open Letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps on Her Recent to Alberta – Jen Turner

Jen Turner  Jen Turner on LinkedIn

I’m an independent contractor and small business owner in Canadian oil and gas. I also live in Victoria.

As I write this, you are flying back from your tour of Cenovus Foster Creek, one of my favorite places I’ve ever worked.

It’s surprisingly beautiful, don’t you think? I once saw a breeding pair of sandhill cranes there at the end of winter drilling season. I remember feeling lucky to witness such protected beauty, in such a job, as a woman – something that would not be possible in many parts of the world.

I might have been getting ahead of myself about the job part. 

This winter, you announced that Victoria was specifically targeting Canadian oilsands producers with a class-action suit, taking no responsibility for our ownconsumption. Can I be straight with you, Lisa? That one hurt.

Overnight, you turned my beloved home into additional liability for my struggling business. Your politics made it harder for me to compete for business from new clients. Thanks to you, being from Victoria became about as popular as a fart in church. (I liked you even less.)

That’s why this next part is particularly hard to say, but here goes:

I’m proud of you, Ms. Helps. 

I was surprised that you accepted an invitation to see – in person – some of this oilsands thing for yourself. This is far more than I can say for any of your colleagues in council, undoubtedly a veritable chorous-line of “busy that day” (and whom have already shown near-unanimous support for the lawsuit). You honored your word and made the trip alone. I respect that you had the courage and goodwill to do so.

Did you know that sandhill cranes are listed as sensitive? They are also known to be uniquely vulnerable to any human disturbance. As a birdwatcher, I loved seeing that pair, co-existing near oilsands infrastructure and activity that was designed for minimal impact. It suggests that we are finding ways to make this work for everyone, including those magnificent cranes. (Sorry there’s no pic, any form of interference with wildlife – even photography – was forbidden).

My own work in the oilsands is an important part of environmental protection, because of our commitment to doing the right thing. 

When politicians like yourself simply dismiss us as “dirty fuel” producers, we lose all hope of recognizing better practices (or penalizing worst offenders) in a global industry that will persist for decades – with or without Canada. The worst offenders win every time we refuse to recognize our efforts to lead the world in terms of ethical production (and, more importantly, our commitment to keep improving). 

It sounds like you are open to doing better. I believe that good leaders give credit where it is due, especially when it feels hard. So I was even more excited after reading that you said THIS:

“I’m coming with an open mind to learn more about the industry and to broaden my perspective. Whether I am going to become a champion of oil and pipelines after the end of the day tomorrow, I don’t know, I think that would be a radical shift.”

I mean, WOW. In a land of reductive political absolutes, that’s the gutsiest, most honest-sounding thing I’ve heard in awhile. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but it sounds like we might be able to work out some middle ground (and better outcomes, in every sense, than we could EVER see otherwise). Any successful energy transition is going to require more of us to work together; the all-or-nothing arguments won’t get us there.

It takes courage to change your mind and admit that you may be wrong, as I have done here regarding yourself. It would be AMAZING to see you return Alberta the same favor.

I can’t wait to hear about your trip! In the meantime, enjoy your safe, hydrocarbon-enabled flight home.

Your (still somewhat begrudging) fan,

Jen Turner

Connect with  Jen Turner on LinkedIn



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