By Cody Battershill
What a difference a couple of weeks make. When I first sat down to write this piece earlier in March, things felt uncertain — but not yet dire — for the Canadian energy sector.
As I write today, companies are making tough decisions related to their very survival. Lay-offs are hitting organizations from top to bottom; many senior managers are taking big pay cuts and pundits say it may take several months before we’re back to anything that resembles normalcy. And work camps are readying themselves for impacts of the pandemic.
Yet some things have stayed exactly as they’ve been for decades. Look no further than Greenpeace, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and other environmental groups. Recently they signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging that no fossil fuel company be given any potential federal support funds and that those funds should only flow to workers.
Let’s get this straight. Supporting workers, families and communities is vital to ensuring employees and contractors survive, families are healthy, and communities continue to provide for their residents. But durable, long-term employment and a functioning economy are equally critical for every Canadian, whether a child or a worker or a pensioner.
You heard me. Companies create jobs, provide good wages and benefits and, in the case of the Canadian energy sector, need government’s assistance right now as pipeline constraints, the Coronavirus pandemic and the OPEC+ oil price war all combine to wreak havoc on our local industry. Recall how the federal government came through for the automotive, rail and train manufacturing industry over the years. Oil and gas is every bit as deserving.
It’s sad to see anti-development activists stoke more fear and division among an already-fearful public, when unity, support and working together are the obvious path.
But Dogwood and other like-minded anti-oil activists would rather jeopardize 500,000 Canadian families who help bring Canadians the energy we depend on everyday.
Let’s agree on one thing: we have to work together during this crisis. We must do everything we can to avoid creating more fear and division at a time when unity, support and working together are the only clear ways through this.
We’re seeing only the second example of shrinking demand for oil in more than a decade, as the world economy is in tatters. But activists who bleakly predict the end of oil are simply wrong. We’re going to need oil and gas for decades, and hard-working employees and contractors will play a key role, as will the companies that hire them.
So, why would anyone, even a staunch opponent of oil and gas, squander valuable media space just to vilify more than 500,000 hard-working Canadians, their oil-and-gas-supported families and communities across the country? Why not assist an industry that’s generated more than $200 billion between 2007 and 2017 for healthcare, education and other social programs to benefit Canadians of economic stratum, every walk of life and every political stripe? The long term tally of economic construction to our country is far greater.
When times are good, oil and gas products are Canada’s largest export. When things are tough, the industry continues to provide for all of our needs, whether that means heating our home, or fertilizing our food crops, or providing the transportation that allows our goods to be distributed or our health system to function.
Meanwhile, our oil and gas sector maintains its leadership role among producers around the world on every social, environmental and political metric we have, while far less progressive supplier regimes exert their influence on countries in crisis.
Where are the voices calling for a shutdown of tankers arriving from Saudi Arabia, where oil production and exports are sharply increasing?
Anti-pipeline activists might want to think about the fact that Canadian heavy oil continues to trade at less than a third that of Mexico’s product. The reason is simple: Mexico has no pipeline constraints and enjoys the benefits of not only pipeline capacity but adequate marine export facilities.
I have a clear message for anti-oil activists. Enough is enough. We’re not going to find our way out of the current, debilitating economic crisis through childish finger-pointing.
It’s time to work together.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer-built organization that supports Canadian natural resource development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it. www.CanadaAction.ca