Politicians need schooling on pipelines

Mark Scholz,
Calgary Herald
September 7, 2016

It’s that time of year again. The relaxing summer months are exchanged for pencils and coiled notebooks, err, laptops, and the development of young minds begin. That’s right, it’s back to school time for students across this great country.

The classroom is a hub for problem-solving and creative thinking. It’s where future business and political leaders blossom, and where many prepare themselves for the inevitable — getting a job. Students learn about fundamentals, the laws of science and mathematics, and the principles of finance and economics. These lessons are very important, because they will underpin the decisions our future leaders across all industries will make.

As Canadians, we especially hope our political leaders, being educated in some of the finest Canadian institutions, clearly understand these concepts and can apply them to sound decision-making practices. Unfortunately, however, right now this does not seem to be the case.

By the end of the year, we will know the fate of a number of critical pipeline projects and whether LNG exports will become a reality in British Columbia. As students prepare themselves to enter the workforce, these oil and gas infrastructure decisions will play a significant role in whether they are successful in landing their dream job. The ability to export Canada’s resources has a dramatic impact on our national economy and whether or not there will be good opportunities for young people to start careers.

Canada desperately needs this infrastructure, or it risks leaving a failed economy for generations to come. Certainly, within the oil and gas community, there is no doubt the upcoming decisions being debated at the federal cabinet table are leaving many people and families on edge. We can only hope our political leaders are grounded in facts and reality before making these decisions.

So what are the facts? Canada is on the brink of another recession. Tax revenues are falling, public deficits are increasing and good jobs are disappearing. The Bank of Canada forecasts domestic GDP growth to be around 1.3 per cent. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Today, billions in private capital is sitting on the sidelines. There is an estimated $68 billion in shovel-ready pipeline projects at various stages of regulatory review. Approving these projects means tens of thousands of Canadians would have jobs at a time of historic levels of unemployment.

But instead of being a champion of the resource sector and strengthening Canada’s job market and global competitiveness, the federal government continues to throw up unnecessary roadblocks. The reason for these delays? Instead of listening to regular, hardworking Canadians, our provincial and federal governments seem obsessed with a never-ending pursuit of social acceptance from a small number of radical anti-development groups, many of which are funded by U.S. special interests.

Ironically, as Canadian students head to the classroom and pursue their studies, it’s our political class that really needs the lecture. Global demand for oil and gas will continue to increase for many decades, with most of that growth coming from the developing world. Canada should be the supplier of choice, because we have the highest environmental, labour and human rights standards in the world. To meet this growing demand, we need pipelines to both coasts.

The reality is, Canada has one customer: the United States, and they will soon become the world’s largest producer of petroleum resources. This means Canada does not get top dollar for its resources because it does not have sufficient pipeline access to alternative markets. As a result, Canadians are subsidizing American oil consumers and imports a startling 43 per cent of its own oil.

The most responsible oil and gas products should have access to broad international markets and pipelines are the safest way to transport petroleum products full stop. Between 2008 and 2014, 99.99 per cent of the crude oil and petroleum product transported on federally regulated pipelines was done so safely. The point is, Canadian pipeline infrastructure has been operating with an A+ for decades. It’s time for our political leaders to acknowledge this record and start being champions of the industry.

Here’s a pop quiz for our political leaders: how do you grow the Canadian economy, strengthen the middle class and create long-term employment opportunities for Canada?

Answer: make pipeline projects a reality and champion Canada’s oil and gas industry.

Let’s hope our political leaders make the grade on this one.

StoryCalgary Herald