Learn how a group of academics are rallying together to support Canadian Energy.
Earlier this year, at the height of an economic crisis and global pandemic, Students for Canada representatives Daniel Baker and Skye Lybbert penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in support of Canada’s oil and gas industry. The letter thoughtfully outlined the many social benefits, clean innovations, and facts behind Canada’s responsible energy development, something that is rarely mentioned on mainstream news outlets. We caught up with Daniel and Skye to find out more about Students for Canada and their letter campaign.
Check out the Q&A below with CAODC’s John Bayko to learn more.
John Bayko: Can you tell us about your backgrounds? Are you both from Alberta originally?
Daniel Baker: I’m from Calgary, Alberta, born and raised, and then went up to the University of Alberta to begin my undergrad education in geology. I completed that and got an honors bachelor of science in geology. I worked for a year for a couple oil companies and construction companies, and then once I was done playing around with a jackhammer, I decided to go back to get a master’s degree in geology at the University of Alberta.
Skye Lybbert: I grew up just outside of Edmonton, Alberta in Spruce Grove. I went to school, did my honors undergrad in geology at the University of Alberta, then right after I finished up my undergrad, I knew what I wanted to pursue. I continued going down the research path doing my master’s in geology at the U of A.
JB: A letter of this type isn’t one we typically see written by students from universities in North America, what prompted you to write it?
DB: We share an office space, and we were sitting around and we saw that a letter came out to Trudeau from University of Alberta professors, asking the Prime Minister not to support oil and gas development during COVID. We looked at each other and thought this is ridiculous. We’re tired of the polarized one-sided argument that Canadian energy is bad, specifically with oil and gas. We understood how much effort oil and gas companies put towards environmental action and help support Canadians through our industry work. We were tired of it and knew we had to write a letter. We decided we were going to showcase a more positive and optimistic viewpoint that can show oil and gas within Canada is not bad, but is actually a benefit to all Canadians.
SL: We’ve been finding that within the popular media people have been very one-sided and put a bit of misleading information out. When that letter came out from the University of Alberta professors, we knew we had to do something about it because it didn’t reflect the majority of Canadians. We often like to say it’s the soft-spoken majority that are in support of our proud energy sector. We knew we needed to stand up for this industry that is being poorly represented in the media.
DB: The letter we wrote tied really well with joining Students for Canada. That’s the student organization that we’re a part of now and we are non-partisan, non-industry, and all volunteer. We support responsible resource projects which respect Canadian values, economic prosperity, and environmental stability. We are frustrated with a lack of balance between oil and gas production along with climate action, and this is where a letter really highlights that we can have both, climate action alongside oil and gas development, which gives economic prosperity to Canada.
JB: In the letter you talk about the increasing global demand for energy, Canada’s environmental record when it comes to producing hydrocarbons, and the amount of environmental innovations that come from oil and gas. Is your letter available anywhere online for people to learn more?
SL: We have it online at studentsforcanada.ca. You’ll be able to find our letter and we’re inviting all Canadians to sign the letter because this really affects everyone, not just the energy industry, it affects your education, it affects your healthcare, it affects all your public services all across the board.
JB: I’m really curious with people in your age group, how would you describe the overall support for resource industries in general?
SL: Here at the U of A we’re around the whole industry because it’s Western Canada. What I found when I was talking to other students, I would say about 16 out of 20 students were in support of Canadian energy. I didn’t really believe it when I started walking around talking to students saying, “Hey we have some stickers supporting Canadian energy, would you like one?” Sixteen of them said, “yeah no problem,” and they were all for it.
Some of the viewpoints of those who weren’t in support of Canadian energy, a lot of it was lack of knowledge. I asked them why they wouldn’t take a sticker and they shrugged their shoulders and they gave me a blank stare and looked at me like, “what do you mean?” Because everything we see in the media is quite negative towards the industry. They were surprised I was supporting oil and gas and that whole resource sector side of things. When I was talking to them, towards the end of the conversation, I was able to understand their side and help them understand we actually do have standards here. They didn’t realize all the procedures, all the environmental risk assessments, they didn’t realize we did all those things. I feel like a lot of the environmental and technological innovations and standards we have, have been quite suppressed and we don’t really hear much about them in the media. People aren’t aware. These companies are smart, they have scientists and people who see problems and want to come up with solutions. These energy companies are trying to do something about it, but they’re the unsung heroes.
JB: How would you describe energy literacy among people in your peer group?
DB: We have one Students for Canada member that was calling the oil sands the tar sands. As soon as he jumped into Students for Canada, he was able to be educated towards understanding energy literacy and where it comes from and how it’s used. Now he’s a full supporter for teaching others about energy literacy and about how oil and gas are used within Canada. From our conversations, he thinks that energy literacy and how oil and gas is used isn’t well depicted within schools, especially junior high and lower grades and you kind of need to be involved with it to understand how much oil and gas does for Canada, and without being in the thick of it, I don’t think it’s very well verbalized or directly understood.
SL: With schools, I think there needs to be much more energy literacy and much more understanding. Everything has a cost, everything we do. I think there needs to be more of that understanding because everything has its place. Your windmills have a place, your oil and gas has its place, I think people don’t understand where the places are. I think there needs to be more open discussion and fact driven conversation about this with our generation. That’s the awesome thing about Students for Canada, it’s an inclusive atmosphere. We have students in kinesiology, nursing, dental, biology, PhD students in the climate change sciences, geology, earth sciences. We have all these students from different backgrounds coming together, having open conversations, trying to come up with solutions, that’s the whole idea behind it.
JB: Why did you feel it was important to talk about the derogatory language that surrounds the oil and gas industry in your letter?
DB: I thought that was important to bring across because I’ve never heard about it within mainstream articles. The usage of words within the oil and gas industry is polarizing. We ran across the article mentioned within our letter and a University of Alberta professor was stating that words have meaning and using words such as “tar sands”, which is an incorrect term, really divides Canada and just grinds everything to a halt. We saw these polarizing arguments and wanted to show you can use different language and actually have productive conversations rather than screaming matches.
SL: With this whole letter, we’re trying to bring something positive and something that promotes critical thinking and discussion. We need to watch what we say because some words can be loaded and bring contention, and that’s not going to get us anywhere. Coming from all sides and taking a look at the problem that we have and coming up with solutions is better than just pointing fingers.
JB: Did you get a response from the Prime Minister?
DB: No, we’ve been letting this letter still circulate. We’re going to print out all the signatures and mail that to the Prime Minister as a document. We think that would be more powerful because how could you ignore a stack of paper mailed to you? We’re collecting all signatures, not just students.
You can learn more about Students for Canada and sign their letter at www.studentsforcanada.ca.
Listen to the full interview with Daniel and Skye on the Weldcor Supplies CAODC Podcast on PodBean here.