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 “HQ2” – its second headquarters?
Don’t get me wrong. The economic impact of HQ2 will be profound no matter where Amazon decides to build it. And I hope they choose Calgary out of the nearly 240 submissions they’ve received. After all, Amazon says HQ2 will bring with it $5 billion of total investment.
But HQ2 isn’t the only thing standing between a community’s economic health and total ruin. We’ve had choices.
For example, the now-defunct Energy East pipeline would have created 14,000 jobs along its 4,500-kilometre route, invested $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 local businesses and spent more than $7.4 billion – including $156 million in First Nations communities – before regulatory uncertainty ultimately killed the project. The total investment of $36 billion never materialized and is likely gone forever.
Then there’s the lifeless 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.
Where were the state-of-the-art publicly-funded Amazon-like promotional campaigns for those projects?
Let’s be clear, Amazon would be a great win for my home city. But it’s not without its own controversies. The U.K.-based Carbon Disclosure Project gave Amazon an F for refusing to divulge its emissions use information, while the same group awarded A grades to tech rivals Apple and Microsoft.
We can’t afford to be naive. We need to focus on expanding our jobs markets, 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 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.