Opinion: Recovery leadership begins with recognizing the value of energy industry

Original article published to the Calgary Herald on August 4, 2020

Given the recent distractions in Ottawa, it’s worth remembering that only a month ago, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed what many of us expected: COVID-19 has left Canada in a precarious position. As our country begins to open shuttered doors and look toward the outside world again, it has become quickly apparent things are not well. We have much to be proud of for the way we have handled this crisis, but we can’t spend too much time celebrating, because a hard and perhaps equally challenging test lies ahead.

Many Canadians have lost their jobs and are worried about how they will make ends meet in addition to being worried about the virus. While unemployment rates are at historic highs, small and medium-sized businesses in communities across the country have been decimated, and our prospects for good jobs are getting worse each day. As our personal and collective debt continues to rise, our potential for earning continues to fall, and this combination of circumstances presents a critical risk of doing irreparable damage to our economy, our social institutions and our collective psyche as Canadians.

Perhaps most concerning, however, is that at a time when we need a real and effective plan for recovery, many Canadian leaders are looking beyond the value of the natural resource industries that built our country. They argue that we must move away from oil and gas, for example, towards a clean energy transition, and that now is the time to do it. What they neglect to include, or perhaps understand, is that Canada’s oil and gas sector is the largest investor in clean energy in the country and that supporting it through competitive policy and proper infrastructure delivers both environmental and financial benefits. What kind of leader would ignore such a perfect solution to tackle clean energy needs and soaring national debt?

In the words of federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, oil and gas “is the biggest industry in the country. It’s our biggest export, so there is a lot on the line for everybody.” Especially now, we need pragmatic, disciplined leaders who are able to put personal agendas aside and do what is best for Canadians, and right now, that is standing up for industries that are proven to provide good jobs and products the world needs, in addition to being world leaders in environmental excellence.

For leaders in energy services specifically, this is a siren call to action. Our sector is among the most decimated, and vulnerable, and if we are to preserve and protect what we have built, what is so valuable to the families and communities in which we operate, and what is so critical — whether they acknowledge it or not — to the livelihoods of all Canadians, we must take a stand. Together, we have a responsibility to chart a new course. Together, we have an opportunity to build upon our strengths, celebrate our successes, and create something new and bold.

Our outstanding fundamentals give us the right to not only exist but to be respected and afforded the opportunity to answer the call and help our country with its financial and employment difficulties. Good jobs, the dignity a hard day’s work affords, and knowing we provide the world with the products it needs are nothing to be ashamed of, and everything to be proud of.

O’Regan is right; simply put, if the Canadian oil and gas industry doesn’t recover, Canada will not recover. It’s up to all of us to respond accordingly. Now is the time for leaders everywhere to get behind Canadian oil and gas and make it a priority in the national recovery effort.

Mark A. Scholz is president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.