Governments have been hoping against hope that the reviews of pipelines and infrastructure projects by Canada’s world-class environmental regulators would increase public acceptance.
They’ve also maintained that carbon pricing would help legitimize Canada’s fossil fuels industry in the eyes of the world, and in turn that would increase investor confidence.
But in both cases, that’s just not happened. Rick George, former CEO of Suncor, recently expressed some similar views in a media interview.
“We have not helped ourselves with uncertainty around carbon pricing, uncertainty around policies on pipelines (and) around getting infrastructure approved,” George told BNN in an interview in May. “We have not made ourselves an attractive place to invest.”
These are bruising words for governments that have recently proclaimed victories through the Trans Mountain and Keystone approvals. Mr. George breathed additional fresh air into the discussion: “I know these federal and provincial ministers talk a good game, but what have we actually approved?…. There is a lot of room between the rhetoric we hear politically and reality.”
Consider that Alberta is the only place to have capped oil production emissions. Meanwhile global demand for oil is growing, displacing Alberta’s jobs – and its emissions – to other jurisdictions.
Consider Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, where industry leaders stood on stage with Premier Notley in order to achieve this fleeting thing known as social licence. You only need look to our B.C. neighbour to realize that, for us, social licence remains stubbornly out of reach.
And consider that investor confidence and public acceptance have not appreciably increased either. Each step the industry takes toward achieving social licence results in activists forcing a step backward. One side’s campaign toward achieving social licence is another side’s retrenchment into misinformation and fear.
Can we agree this is not good for Canada? Can we agree we need a new model?
I’ve said this before: more Canadians need to get engaged in this key discussion, and to understand better how Canadian energy development – including its environmental, social and economic implications – benefits us all, today and in the future.
Until Canadians become more involved in this crucial conversation on resources, and until they openly express their personal, heartfelt views and the views of their families, expect this vexing cat-and-mouse game to continue, and expect Canada to suffer.
Cody Battershill is a Calgary Realtor and founder/spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.