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U of A: Whether on Suzuki or Energy Jobs, Albertans are speaking out!

Cody Battershill

By the time you read this, the University of Alberta may have already added a new name to its list of recipients of honorary doctorates. Or, they may have heeded the views of thousands of angry citizens, reconsidered and rescinded the honour. Either way, many now agree, David Suzuki makes for a very poor award recipient.

Tens of thousands of Albertans and others across the country reacted in outrage last month over the University of Alberta’s misguided decision to bestow one of the school’s highest honours on Suzuki, the divisive, fact-challenged and unrelenting celebrity oilsands opponent.

The U of A made the decision, let’s remember, after years of economic downturn, in the midst of an inter-provincial trade war, and while U.S.-based activists continue to block construction of a key energy link from Alberta to global markets. But it wasn’t just the school’s timing that was off.

The promise to celebrate this anti-oilsands warrior struck many as inconsistent considering his many firmly-held positions in which he publicly promotes anti-fossil fuel opinions as facts, says environmentally-responsible and sustainable fossil fuel development is impossible, and compares fossil fuel development to “the perpetuation of slavery.”

Further, Suzuki claims “all fossil fuels are unethical,” says prosperity and sustainable resource development can never coexist and still campaigns against vital energy infrastructure.

My view is those positions disqualify him from receiving an honour from a school with a proud heritage of leadership in energy, and where world-class research is carried out in petroleum engineering, geology, geophysics, fossil fuels, economics, business and more.

So we’re grateful that tens of thousands of Canadians signed our petition urging U of A Chancellor Douglas Stollery to rescind the honorary degree, or saw our ad in the newspaper and became involved by contacting U of A and their own MLAs.

As I write this column, however, I don’t know whether our work was successful in turning around U of A’s ill-conceived plan. But I know this: U.S.-backed activists and other single-minded energy opponents should never underestimate the passion of honest, hard-working women, men and their families who rely on our energy sector and take pride in its sustainability successes.

They know fair-trade Canadian oil and gas is produced to the best environmental standards on earth and is the largest single contributor to Canada’s economy. And it looks like they’re not afraid to show it.

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.