You know the geography; Alberta, the location of the world’s third largest oil reserve, is hopelessly landlocked. We offer a commodity sourced under “fair trade” principals, a product of the world’s most stringently monitored and socially progressive top ten oil reserve, yet provinces to the East have been importing oil from the likes of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the North Sea region – among others. We need to get our product to global markets and to the rest of Canada in order to get the best price, displace imports, and to protect Canadian jobs and grow our market share, but the campaign to block our exports is as strong as ever.
A sophisticated communications and public relations campaign has been waged to block pipeline construction for many years. South, West, East, every major pipeline has faced stiffed opposition. Some local stakeholders certainly raise legitimate points about pipeline saftey, construction issues, and duty to consult First Nations groups and municipalities transected by the lines themselves.
But the most basic motivation is that many see pipelines as a convenient choke point to plug and kill Canada’s oil sands industry once and for all. Greenpeace employee Mike Hudema and other employed protestors have asserted that blocking pipelines cancels oil sands projects. They don’t seem to mention or care about the 514,000 Canadian jobs supported by the oilsands in 2014. Nor do they care about the $91 billion contributed to Canada’s economy in 2014. Canada has the best absolute environmental performance of the world’s top ten oil reserve countries and oil demand is growing every day. Hudema and his supporters envision a world where the oil sands are no longer operational, and they have sought to achieve this by focusing their lobbying efforts on blocking pipeline construction. Sadly, by obstructing Canadian oil pipelines and exports, these lobby groups and their employees are actually supporting the increased market share of other countries. Want more proof? They have never campaigned against the 600,000 barrels of oil per day imported by Canada from other countries. There isn’t a single campaign.
So what can we do to change the conversation?
The first step is for ordinary Canadians to equip themselves with the facts to become ‘Canadian resource ambassadors’. A recent study by Canada’s Fraser Institute indicates that pipelines are more than 4.5 times safer than rail as a means of transporting oil and gas products. For those of us in Western Canada, a project that has been top of mind and in the news recently is Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline. The project is under review by the National Energy Board, a part of Canada’s world leading energy regulatory system, but is still facing stiff opposition even without a final decision. Here are a few facts about TransMountain that its detractors haven’t been telling the public:
- The project proposes to twin the existing pipeline, so that more Canadian oil can be delivered to market safely and efficiently. The first pipeline was completed in the 1950’s and has operated ever since without a major marine incident.
- Currently, only 3% of marine traffic at Port Metro Vancouver is comprised of tankers. The proposed expansion of the TransMountain pipeline is estimated to increase tanker traffic to only 14%.
- Kinder Morgan contributes property taxes to reserves in British Columbia in cases where the current pipeline crosses First Nations land. The TransMountain expansion project will be no exception.
- Traditional Ecological Knowledge studies have also been mounted in order to provide information for the planning process of the project. These involve the collection of traditional knowledge from potentially affected First Nations communities regarding vegetation, wildlife, aquatics, archaeology and wetlands.
- Extensive environmental studies have also been mounted since 2012, with the goal of examining effects to wildlife, fisheries, plants, species at risk or of special status, soils, heritage resources or traditional land use, and air and greenhouse gas emissions.
- All topsoil removed during the construction of TransMountain will be stored for future reclamation efforts.
- According to the Conference Board of Canada, the project would create 4,500 construction jobs at peak employment and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs per year of operation. It also estimates that $480 million will be spent in communities along the route in direct construction spending.
- The CBOC also estimates that $18.5 billion will be remitted to government in the form of taxes and royalties from the project during its development and over its first 20 years of operations.
TransMountain is only one example of a critical project that has been in the works for years, but has been unable to proceed because opponents continue to move the goalposts to prevent its construction. These groups have, so far, enjoyed inordinate media and public support. As Canadians, we need to stand up and demand a more fact-based conversation. We also need to ask ourselves why Alaskan tankers on the west coast face no opposition but Canadian tankers in the same waters do. Globally, Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Norway, the UK, Kuwait, and others can all sell their oil to the highest bidder on the global market. So why do lobby groups attached to this campaign only attack Canada?
Please visit our website, www.canadaaction.ca, and follow us on Twitter @CanadaAction, Facebook and LinkedIn for more information
by Cody Battershill
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.