President’s Message: Strike three, and you’re out in Canada’s resource sector

by Mark Scholz

In baseball, the pitcher has one job, to throw three pitches past the batter within the strike zone and comfortably in the glove of the catcher. Baseball is a great game to watch (especially live). Last year, I took my son to Toronto to see the Blue Jays play the Yankees. It was a time where memories were made, even if the Jays lost. Today, I cannot help but think about the game of baseball and how it relates to the gamesmanship taking place in Canada’s resource sector.

It’s the Canadians against the Americans, the score is 5 to 6, two out, and it’s the bottom of the ninth. The Canadians are at bat, and the bases are loaded. Teck Resources, better known as TR, comes to the plate with a stellar .300 batting average, a league legend, and an asset to the Canadian team. Victory appears to be inevitable. A confident TR chalks up his hands, firmly grips his wooden bat and eases up next to the plate. He stares down the pitcher, adrenaline is running high.

The first pitch, a curveball called Canada’s lack of market access, explodes from the pitcher’s grip and lands squarely in the strike zone. TR is surprised but not too alarmed. He shakes himself off and with coolness braces for the next pitch.

The second pitch, an unfamiliar one, takes TR off his game. A sinker referred to as Canada’s lack of competitive climate policy blazes by TR without effort. TR tries to reassemble his composure after two unforgiving pitches. He looks to his coach for assistance, and waits for a signal, but gets nothing. The Canadian coach, nicknamed the federal government, is just as shocked and without words to encourage TR.

We all want a vibrant economy and a sustainable environment. But is the government achieving this outcome?

The umpire calls TR back to the plate. Off his game and emotions high, TR anticipates the final throw. But the Americans have another zinger, a changeup better known as Canada’s unwillingness to maintain law and order, charges towards home plate. It’s a mighty swing and a miss as the umpire calls strike three, and the game is over.

TR, with his head hanging low, calmly redirects himself to the dugout. As he walks by his other teammates, Kinder Morgan and TC Energy, no words are expressed. Still, the disappointment on their faces says it all. It was a game that should have been won, but in baseball, as in other sports, you’re either a winner or a loser. And no one remembers the team that lost the World Series.

Canada has witnessed three major private-sector projects cancelled all within a short period. Energy East was the first, a 21st-century nation-building project designed to ensure Canadian energy security for decades to come. The $15-billion project was cancelled by TransCanada (now named TC Energy) because it could not see through the regulatory uncertainty. The second was Kinder Morgan and the TMX pipeline. Exhausted by political uncertainty and provincial-federal squabbling, the Houston-based corporation walked away from the $10-billion project only to have the federal government purchase the assets. And finally, the Frontier project, a $20-billion project proposed by Teck Resources, a Vancouver-based firm that would have created more than 7,000 jobs. The project was cancelled in a three-sentence corporate press release on February 23.

The press release included a damning repudiation of Canada’s complex and ever-changing climate policy. In the letter addressed to Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, Don Lindsay, the president and CEO, stated: “The promise of Canada’s potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed.”

The prime minister often touts his government’s efforts to “balance the economy and environment at the same time.” Who could argue with that? We all want a vibrant economy and a sustainable environment. But is the government achieving this outcome? According to Lindsay in his letter to Jonathan Wilkinson, he argues “investors and customers are looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change … this does not yet exist (in Canada) today.”

You could hear the radical environmentalists’ cheers echoing down the vacant streets of Calgary after the announcement. What a disappointment. A billion-dollar write off, a scathing letter to a federal minister, and poof … billions of investments and jobs gone.

This is a huge blow to Canada’s reputation and future economic prosperity. But unfortunately, three strikes and we’re out. Better luck next time, kid. There’s always next season. One can only hope.