Alberta’s Rebuttal: Oil is Alive and Well

Sonya Savage

May 13, 2020

History has proven, time and time again, that there is nothing more motivating to Albertans than being counted out and told “You can’t.” Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed certainly wasn’t deterred in the early 1970s, when many had all but given up trying to unlock the deep deposits in Alberta’s oil sands.

It was then that Premier Lougheed initiated the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA), made up of deep thinkers who spurred the industry to overcome enormous obstacles. The end result was not only unlocking this resource, but helping it develop into the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world — re-writing Alberta’s history and changing the course of Canada’s future in the process.

Today, our province — and Canada’s oil and gas industry — is up against an equally daunting challenge: the triple threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide recession it has spawned and the commodity price crisis.

Premier Jason Kenney has been clear in stating and re-stating that these very serious times are absolutely plaguing an industry that has done so much for the entire nation. This is an industry that creates jobs and prosperity, directly funding social programs and government services
that benefit Canadians from coast to coast.

Considering the battles we have overcome — and those that lie ahead — the recent “Oil is dead” proclamation from Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May and similar statements from Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet are false, at best, and, at worst, highly
divisive, hypocritical and ungrateful.

But nonetheless, they are a blip in the grand scheme of things we intend to accomplish as we revitalize the industry and, restart Canada’s economic engine.

Their mantra is something that can be easily disproven by a visit to the International Energy Agency (IEA) website, which shows the unprecedented disruption in the world’s energy markets will taper off, and strong, long-term energy demand will remain.

According to the IEA, even if the world were to aggressively move off of oil, we’re decades away from the last barrel being drilled.

Under Premier Kenney, we will be sparking our resurgence by launching a new post-pandemic strategy for Canada’s energy industry.

While we look forward to sharing those details with Albertans and Canadians soon, it is a strategy that will build on the long-held fundamentals we have established as one of the world’s leading developers of responsibly produced energy. Alberta produces energy with the highest environmental, social and governance standards in the world.

The world should choose responsibly-produced Canadian oil over oil from countries with no respect for human rights — more forcefully and convincingly than ever before. We’ll tell this story internationally, however May’s and Blanchet’s comments demonstrate there is still
much work to do here at home.

Quite frankly, Alberta’s — and Canada’s — economic recovery depends on the successful recovery of our energy industry. Alberta’s energy industry is the lifeblood of our provincial economy — and the largest sub-sector and employer of the Canadian economy.

In 2018, our energy sector was responsible for 10 per cent of Canadian GDP, supporting 800,000 Canadian jobs.

The energy sector helps other industries — including manufacturing, transportation and health care — thrive. From big cities to small towns, the energy sector makes a significant difference in the lives of Canadians.

In Blanchet’s home province, almost 40 percent, or nearly 150,000 barrels of oil per day that Quebec consumes, comes from Western Canada. Much of the $13 billion per year in equalization payments Quebec receives — to pay for things like health care during the pandemic — comes from Alberta, due largely in part to the federal taxes paid by those in the energy sector.

The Bloc leader accused us of hurling insults. That is far from the case. Albertans take pride in our contributions to Quebec and across Canada. We do so in friendship and solidarity with fellow Canadians. We hope May and Blanchet can eventually acknowledge that.

They can kick us when we’re down, but they won’t be able to keep us there. There’s a lot of fight — and a lot of life — left in us and our industry.

Sonya Savage is Alberta’s Minister of Energy.