Opinion: Resource sector offers opportunities for First Nations people

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Opinion: Resource sector offers opportunities for First Nations people

Risks can be mitigated: Blanket ban on all development in the province is troubling

Written by: Bruce Dumont for The Vancouver Sun, December 02, 2013 

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I received an early education in the benefits of the resource industry, having grown up around the forestry and oil and gas sectors in B.C. and Alberta.

My father worked in forestry as a faller and bucker for 46 years, and I did the same for some 20 years, later specializing in occupational safety.

I’ve witnessed first-hand the enormous economic and social opportunities our resource sector can provide to Metis and First Nations people.

In fact, across the country more than 650 communities depend on resource industries like mining, forestry, fishing and oil and gas — and these industries employ millions of Canadians directly and indirectly.

The oilsands sector, for example, is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the country. In 2010, companies in the oilsands purchased $1.3 billion in goods and services from Aboriginal-owned businesses.

There are some 17,000 Metis working in the resource sector today in wide-ranging fields from lawyers and accountants to pipefitters, electricians, welders, consultants and engineers. These are high-paying jobs that help support Metis families and communities.

B.C. must continue to support its vital resource and energy sectors. Whether it’s building a mine or constructing a pipeline, such projects can be built responsibly, in a manner that protects the environment while enhancing livelihoods for Metis people and other British Columbians.

Metis history is closely intertwined with the history of the resource sector. Indeed, the Metis were the original entrepreneurs of the fur trade in this country.

While I’m very proud of that history, I also recognize that the resource sector has come a long way in the past few decades. I’ve seen it. Those who work in the resource sector today are no longer just “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” but rather innovators, using cutting-edge technology to pioneer more environmentally sound and effective means of extracting our bountiful natural resources for the benefit of society.

Yet some continue to promote an anti-development narrative in this province that claims all development, no matter how environmentally and socially responsible, should be restricted.

For me, a blanket ban on all resource development in this province is worrying.

Sure, we should say no to development projects that can’t be done right and that would damage our province’s environment.

At the same time, while no resource project is without risk, these risks can be mitigated. Serious efforts can be made to ensure such projects are built and operated responsibly using the highest environmental standards and safeguards.

And the risk runs both ways. Wide-ranging efforts to prevent responsible resource development risk us losing vital social and economic opportunities.

I believe some of this opposition is based simply on a lack of knowledge. People, including some in our Metis Nation BC membership, may react negatively to a resource project proposal because they do not have enough information about the project being planned. I respect any informed opinion.

And many urban dwellers have never seen the rigorous environmental and safety practices being implemented everyday in the modern resource sector.

So it’s important for the resource industries to continue educating British Columbians about modern mining, forestry, oil and gas and pipeline practices.

I continue to encourage our Metis youth to tour modern forestry operations and visit mine sites, for example, because such first-hand experiences can provide them with a better understanding of how the resource sector operates.

According to Statistics Canada, the Metis population is younger than the non-Aboriginal population and continues to grow. This young, dynamic and growing population is in need of jobs that pay well and provide good livelihoods.

Many of those jobs are being created in the resource sector. And so policies that encourage responsible resource development are critical to the future prosperity of this province.

That’s why I was pleased with the recent framework agreement supporting responsible oil pipeline development between B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford. The agreement makes clear that B.C. will permit pipelines only if they are built to the highest standards and provide clear benefits for local communities and the province as a whole.

The Metis are a proud and independent people. My experience has been that the resource sector allows people to maintain and enhance that independence.

When I was young, the resource sector provided opportunities that allowed me to work hard, build a good life and raise a family.

I’d like to see the youth of today get those same opportunities. And by developing policies that support a strong, thriving and environmentally responsible resource sector, those opportunities can continue to be made real for thousands of young British Columbians.

Bruce Dumont is President of Metis Nation BC, which represents 35 Metis Chartered Communities and the majority of the 70,000 self identified Metis in British Columbia and is mandated to develop and enhance opportunities for Metis communities by implementing culturally relevant social and economic programs and services.

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Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs (Ron Burnett)

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Opinion: Northern communities need pipeline — and its jobs

Written by: Ron Burnett for The Province, November 27, 2014

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Recent news coverage suggests there’s a growing awareness that B.C. needs economic development and that projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can play an important role in making that happen. That’s good news for employees, business owners and their families throughout resource-dependent B.C. that have gone through a tough last decade or more.

As a longtime resident of Kitimat near the proposed pipeline terminus, and as someone who has watched the local demise of the Eurocan pulp mill and its 500 jobs, and the Methanex plant and its 120 jobs, I focus a lot of my energy on working with my colleagues to try to replace high-paid local employment to build and sustain our community. Here’s how I think about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

First, Northern Gateway’s positive economic impact on the country will be felt from here to the East Coast. Most people by now have heard reference to the $6.5-billion investment the project represents. But in my view, that’s just the beginning of the economic story.

If approved, this pipeline would allow Canadian producers to obtain fair market price for their products by selling to Asia rather than being restricted to U.S. markets, where bottlenecks and new domestic energy capacity combine to hurt our prices significantly. Accessing Asia, in turn, would help clear the way for the industry and our country to prosper.

Remember, there are a lot of families in our region that are dependent on the oil and gas employment economy. If the market access challenge is solved, we — all of us — do better.

Next, the province must support this proposal as an initiative that can truly improve our lives. Some 3,000 B.C. jobs will be created during the project’s construction, as well as 560 permanent B.C. jobs in the long term. Investment and new jobs from the pipeline will generate $1.2 billion in revenue for B.C.’s treasury over the next 30 years, which can help to build new hospitals, improve classroom education, and to support our quality of life in general.

Our own community stands to derive jobs and taxes from a proposed storage facility and additional employment on the marine side where the large tugs will require crews and maintenance.

And if value were to be added in Canada through upgrading and refining — both topics still under discussion in some circles — then the economic returns could be even more significant.

To push the economic point further, I say Premier Christy Clark was right to hold out for a framework agreement on her five conditions. One of those conditions is designed to ensure British Columbians are fairly rewarded for the level of risk their province undertakes. To me, the condition makes perfect sense.

But let’s be clear. Safety can be managed. Tankers in this region are most certainly not a new phenomenon.

As a 60-year user of the Douglas Channel and as a lifelong Kitimat resident, I can assure you tanker traffic has been plying the channel since the early 1950s, and the tanker traffic continues to today.

In other words, my view is the project benefits outweigh any risks and the precautions proposed are more than adequate.

Double-hulled tankers tethered to very powerful tugs, two pilots and enhanced navigational technology like land-based radar all go a long way to satisfying my concerns.

Further, pipe monitoring 24/7, remote pump stations staffed around the clock, enhanced, dual leak detection and thicker pipe combine to assuage concerns on the land.

Our corner of the province has had a very rough ride through the catastrophic pine-beetle epidemic in our Interior forests that resulted in the closure of manufacturing in Kitimat, Terrace, Hazelton, Houston and Quesnel. That’s a lot of lost jobs and worried families. We need to put the economic pieces back together and then move forward, in a safe, responsible way.

I often point out to people that we in Canada seem to live in a bubble. We account for just two per cent of the global economy and yet we think we can compete with the world on its terms. But for a few rare exceptions, we simply don’t have the population to do so.

We Canadians are fortunate. We have a rich energy resource and the world-leading technical know-how to develop, transport and sell it safely and responsibly to the rest of the world. It’s our ace in the hole. Let’s be proud of the opportunities our natural resources export sector offers, and let’s move forward.

 Ron Burnett is president of the Kitimat Economic Development Association and past-president of the Kitimat — Terrace Industrial Development Society. He lives in Kitimat.

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Opinion: Some thoughts on Jack Munro

Some thoughts on Jack Munro

Written by: Tom Tevlin, www.TreeFrogCreative.ca, Nov 18 2013 Continue reading

It’s indisputable that Jack Munro, a giant of BC politics, improved the lives of a great many Canadians. It’s even fair to say he saved some lives as well; Munro’s commitment to logger safety is as important an achievement as any other of his collective bargaining accomplishments.

But what’s less discussed is the key role he played at the Forest Alliance of BC where he was its high-profile and influential Chair through the 1990s, as valley-by-valley land-use disputes spread across the province like wildfire, making headlines here and in BC’s international markets.

From the perspective of his young Forest Alliance team, Munro bore little resemblance to his bombastic public persona. He was protective of us, generous with his time, his counsel and his praise, and always ready to share stories of past strikes, lockouts, campaigns and the broader lessons learned. Each of us was amazed at the soft heart of this legendary street fighter.

That’s why we staffers, after having lots of opportunity to offer him our advice, would accept his decisions and then follow him anywhere. He was the necessary ingredient in making the Forest Alliance a credible voice here and abroad during the era of the infamous ‘forestry wars,’ and he was, to use the hackneyed phrase, the guy you wanted in the fox hole with you.

Populated by a group of 30 high-profile British Columbians who were used to making policy decisions and setting an organization’s agenda, the Forest Alliance ‘citizens board’ meetings were sometimes events to behold. Munro’s rhetorical abilities were mesmerizing.

When a dispute came up at a Citizens Board session, and an experienced board member cited meeting procedure, Jack would wryly remind the board member of the process:

“Don’t talk to me about Roberts Rules,” he’d say with a smile. “Around here we operate according to Munro’s Rules. And there’s only one, so it’s pretty simple: I make the rules.”

The directors quickly learned an important aspect of management, Munro-style: They would have to gain their influence with him not through citing procedure around a large meeting table, but through mixing it up in smaller discussions before the meeting ever took place.

That’s because people were aware that while Jack had limitless time for “a good BS session” around his office desk, he was not a great fan of long get-togethers. “Those people can take a two-hour meeting, and if they work like hell, they can cram it into five hours,” he’d say after an especially long session.

If one director in particular dominated the floor of the meeting, Jack would report back to staff afterwards: “That so-and-so was vaccinated with a goddamn phonograph needle.” It was always followed by Munro’s infectious, body-shaking laugh.

Great punch-lines aside, Munro was a great strategist and an astute observer of people – those both with and without power. Whether around a table of fellow labour leaders, or forest industry CEOs, or folks in a restaurant in Williams Lake or Ladysmith, he had an uncanny way of connecting, changing their views and influencing their actions.

He engendered strong loyalty among his board, his staff and his membership, and as a result, his leadership on the forest and land-use file was remarkable, as was easily seen through public opinion polling through the decade, where support for the forest industry doubled over his tenure as Chair.

In discussions in Victoria, or with Federal officials in Ottawa or in our forestry markets in Europe or the US, Jack was a force to be reckoned with — especially among Canadian diplomats whom he felt needed to do more to fend off a possible product boycott.

When a government official made a commitment that Munro felt wasn’t genuine, he’d usually respond: “I might have been born at night, but not LAST night.” That was the signal for the official to ante up; on the discussion would go until Jack felt the official’s commitment would lead to action.

That the industry would entrust Munro with the job to lead a well-funded organization to engage in the environmental debates of the day was a credit to those CEOs. But for the young Forest Alliance staff, working with Jack was very simply the experience of a lifetime.

Tom Tevlin held a number of positions at the Alliance, eventually becoming President. Today he’s President & CEO of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., where another Forest Alliance staffer, Trevor Figueiredo is his business partner.

Opinion: Capt. Stephen Brown: B.C. mariners reject oil-tanker fearmongering

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Opinion: Capt. Stephen Brown: B.C. mariners reject oil-tanker fearmongering

Written by: Stephen Brown for The Province, October 16, 2013

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Most British Columbians are aware the Canadian oilsands provide needed, well-paying jobs. Perhaps less appreciated is the fact that the oilsands industry has an indirect but very substantial positive impact on our local economies.

For years, many rural B.C. communities struggled to develop sustainable economies in which young people could build their lives without being forced to move away in search of work.

As a former seafarer, I know very well the challenges of working away from home, often for many months at a time. We embraced that lifestyle as the basis of a career. But many British Columbians would prefer to do without such a nomadic way of life.

By investing in responsible resource extraction and energy development in B.C., we can create new opportunities for our citizens, allowing them to live and work in their home towns.

Just look at what’s happening in Alberta. Many communities there are, for the first time, benefiting from paved roads, well-equipped and staffed health-care centres and public facilities that are second to none. Indeed, on a recent visit to Fort McMurray, I was surprised to learn that the city has the largest and most modern recreation centre in Canada. What a great asset in a growing community.

While cynics may dismiss this form of economic development as oil companies buying their social license, it’s much more than that. For example, the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association is a vital cog in the oilsands economy as it provides tremendous employment opportunities and a previously unimaginable standard of living for its members. In 2010, oilsands companies are reported to have contracted more than $1.3 billion for goods and services from native-owned businesses.

Although we may not notice it, the oilsands also benefit B.C. As a prominent Vancouver Island mayor recently explained to me, there is a disconnect between natural resource development and the local wealth it generates. People have no appreciation for how many well-paying B.C. jobs are dependent on the continued success of the oilsands. In future, roughly 126,000 oilsands jobs will be created in provinces other than Alberta.

But here, for me, is the most impressive economic fact for British Columbia: recent estimates from the Canadian Energy Research Institute show that the oilsands will generate $28 billion in economic benefits solely for our province over the next 25 years.

B.C.’s professional marine industry will continue to argue for what we know to be the silent majority of Canadians who support environmentally sustainable resource development. Indeed, most Canadians are appalled at how much money we are sacrificing as a country (up to $50 million a day) simply because our oilsands resources are landlocked.

Preventing this oil from reaching markets worldwide makes no sense when everyone knows how badly we need that money to be pumped into infrastructure development, schools, hospitals and social services — not to mention pay down a provincial debt of $57 billion in B.C. that is growing by more than $200 every second.

The tragedy of the Exxon Valdez tanker 24 years ago remains a rallying point for opponents of development. However, had the Exxon Valdez been built under legislation crafted in 1990 in the U.S. and which is now internationally applied, there would have been no loss of oil in that incident.

Indeed, in 2012, no major spills occurred anywhere. So, given the additional layers of risk mitigation that we are committed to applying, we entirely reject the notion that it is only a matter of time before a spill will occur on the coastline of B.C.

That’s not to say we are complacent. Indeed, a diverse group of stakeholders travelled to Norway in June to examine what many believe to be that country’s world-class spill regime.

We take the view that if lessons learned can provide even a marginal improvement in preparedness, then we must make that investment.

The marine industry will continue to operate safely, as we do on tens of thousands of vessels, including several thousand tankers, that ply the oceans of the world every day in order to ensure the lights stay on and there is gas at the pump — even if we don’t always care for the price.

And we’ll continue to work closely with our resource and energy sector partners, creating new opportunities for British Columbians right here at home.

Capt. Stephen Brown is president of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia.

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Opinion: Shipping oil has never been safer

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Opinion: Shipping oil has never been safer

Improved tanker design, navigation and a fleet of response vessels means spills aren’t inevitable
Written by: Stephen Brown and Kevin Gardner, Special to the Vancouver Sun, October 8, 2013

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An oil tanker is guided by tug boats as it goes under the Lions Gate Bridge at the mouth of Vancouver Harbour. Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press
An oil tanker is guided by tug boats as it goes under the Lions Gate Bridge at the mouth of Vancouver Harbour.
Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

As British Columbians continue to debate energy development and transportation proposals to allow Canada to ship oil exports to new markets, questions are being asked of safety in the marine sector and of our ability to deal with an oil spill in the unlikely event of such an occurrence.

Shipping oil in and out of B.C. is nothing new. Oil has been uneventfully moved on the coast of British Columbia for the past 100 years. For most of that time, the technologies of precision navigation that are today compulsory equipment on the bridge of a ship simply did not exist.

But what of the Exxon Valdez?, argue some critics.

The marine industry can reasonably claim to have learned the lessons of Exxon Valdez. In fact, had the Exxon Valdez been built to construction standards first introduced in the 1990s, not a drop of oil would have been spilled in that incident.

Before any tanker is chartered by an oil company, the vessel is vetted in detail with the assistance of international databases describing every aspect of a tanker’s history. As a consequence, tanker owners are highly incentivized to ensure their vessels, and the crews that operate them, maintain an exemplary record of performance.

Highly experienced marine pilots, assisted by equally senior tug masters commanding state of the art and immensely powerful tugs, guide tankers through local waters. It’s the law.

Real time wind and current monitors in combination with comprehensive communications systems ensure marine pilots in British Columbia are at the leading edge of safety innovation.

And so modern ship construction, rigorous training and safety standards, and advanced technologies ensure oil spills today are not inevitable. The proof is clear: Oil spills in the marine environment have declined massively over the past 30 years and in 2012 there were no large spills anywhere in the world.

Yet B.C.’s shipping sector is not resting on its laurels. The marine industry is fully supportive of the federal government’s decision to conduct a review of oil spill preparedness and response, which will be published later this year.

And Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the organization charged by the federal government with maintaining oil spill preparedness on Canada’s West Coast, is a leader in adopting the latest international marine safety approaches.

The Canada Shipping Act requires that we have the ability to respond to a 10,000-tonne (70,000-barrel) oil spill. WCMRC exceeds that capacity by two and a half times — and we continue to grow our capacity even further.

WCMRC has initiated detailed mapping of the B.C. coastline to improve the organization’s coastal knowledge base, maintains strategically located equipment caches in 11 locations from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, and conducts training exercises regularly across the B.C. coast.

In the unlikely event of a spill, WCMRC has a fleet of 31 vessels at the ready. An additional 80 vessels manned by well-trained and experienced contractors are also available. And WCMRC can call upon a worldwide network of resources and personnel that further enhances its ability to respond rapidly and effectively to any spill.

WCMRC continues to benchmark itself against several other leading countries and was recently part of a B.C. delegation to study Norway’s experiences with the aim of continually improving its own expertise.

Federal and provincial governments and the oil and pipeline companies are making unprecedented investments in scientific research to better understand the behaviour of different products in the marine environment. The outcome of this research will provide WCMRC with an even higher level of advanced knowledge for spill preparedness and response.

As for the ability to pay for a significant cleanup, however remote the likelihood, Canada is a world leader. While the principle of “polluter pays” is applicable in all jurisdictions worldwide, thanks to a layer of national reserve funding known as the Canadian Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund (CSSOPF), the Canadian marine industry’s coverage is over and above statutory international requirements.

And following a detailed international review in 2012, the Limits to Liability for Maritime Claims Convention (LLMC) has raised liability limits in the marine sector by 51 per cent effective 2015. Even so, a review of the size of the CSSOPF forms part of the federal government’s current review of preparedness.

In summary, the world fleet of around 12,500 tankers is quietly but safely going about its business providing essential service to the world economy 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

We should demand of the marine sector the highest standards. We must also recognize how far the sector has come in terms of marine safety and oil spill preparedness and response.

Stephen Brown is president of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia. Kevin Gardner is president and general manager of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

What B.C. needs is more energy

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What B.C. needs is more energy

Written by: Lori Ackerman, The Vancouver Sun September 24, 2013 Continue reading

It’s often difficult for the public to assess any large energy project like Northern Gateway or the LNG initiatives without a reasonable level of what many call “energy literacy.”

Energy literacy, of course, describes a person’s understanding of the role energy plays in our lives, how that energy is generated and transported, and touches on the ways the energy industry continues to evolve and improve over time. We need energy literacy to achieve long-term, affordable energy solutions. As the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources notes, “Every citizen must be part of the solution and start by becoming more energy literate.”

In our region we work in natural gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal and hydro and yes, we also have a deep understanding of pipelines and pipeline safety. Generally, this region is relatively energy literate.

But if energy literacy is to yield sound decision-making, then the public at large deserves a primer on energy innovation, and on energy more broadly.

The oil and gas industry, from production right through to distribution, has made enormous strides toward ever-newer technologies and better methods — from planning through construction, monitoring and maintenance.

One of the great aspects of being involved in my community is knowing our entrepreneurs and innovators. These are the people that get up each day and ask themselves: “How can I make my work more efficient, effective and leave a lighter footprint?” That intellectual property is creating wealth.

I am passionate about this approach because I was raised by an innovator and I see it as an antidote to simply saying ‘no’ to industrial development, including large energy projects like the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline or the LNG projects. Saying ‘no’ can temporarily preserve the way things are, but inevitably saying ‘no’ can also mean tough decisions need to be made and some of the services we rely on to create quality of life may face closure.

Sure, saying ‘no’ is always an option, but it can’t be a community’s only option.

To be honest, I’d much rather challenge the oil and gas industry to continue with innovation, than to say ‘no.’ My experience has been that when you challenge this industry to do something better, it’s amazing how the industry comes up with proposals to meet that challenge. Their regard for safety can only be described as remarkable. As a mom of some of these workers, you can only imagine how I appreciate this. As a leader in the community, the sector’s outreach to ensure social license is unlike any other industry.

That’s why we’re holding the Fort St. John Energy Conference from Oct. 1 to 3 (bcenergyconference.ca).

We can change the conversation, and raise the level of energy literacy across the province. We view this as a very important initiative for moving our region and our province forward.

But oil and gas aren’t our only natural assets in northeastern B.C., and nor is energy. Among other things, the Fort St. John region is also the northernmost agricultural region in the country and we have a vibrant forestry industry as well. So when we talk about the four pillars of our community plan, we take a wide-ranging view of what it is we want to achieve in future, including economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, social inclusion and cultural vitality.

For us, being proactive means consulting with our community, engaging as many citizens and businesses as we can, and preparing our community for growth and change within the framework of the four pillars.

To be honest, residents from this area of the province well understand how to work toward lower CO2 emissions, and how to build and maintain safe energy infrastructure, including pipelines. We do this every day.

We want to share that experience with those outside our region. The Energy Conference in October is one way for us to help re-focus the discussion and to bring more British Columbians into the conversation to raise the knowledge level on energy issues. After all, it’s a conversation that needs changing.

Northerners recognize the world is moving ever closer to a knowledge economy. We also know we’re a small population spread out across a very large country, and natural resources are highly valued worldwide. If we’re going to continue with our resource-based economy, then let’s ensure we proceed in an effective and efficient manner that leaves a lighter footprint — that approach is knowledge that can then be exported as well.

We need to be a proactive part of creating policy that drives all industries in a more sustainable direction.

Lori Ackerman is mayor of Fort St. John and a director of both the Peace River Regional District and the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

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Banning coal simplistic, unreasonable and unwise

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Opinion: Mineral is part of the fabric of our human existence

By David Brett, The Vancouver Sun,  September 05, 2013

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A train transports coal near Gillette, Wyo. Writer David Brett argues that Vancouver is being smug when it bans coal, even though it has none to ban. Photograph by: Nati Harnik , Vancouver Sun

Poor coal. It’s the mineral not even a mother could love. It’s the orphaned rock, dirty to burn and easy to hate. Vancouver was cheered recently for banning coal, even though it had no coal to ban. Oppose coal and you’re a rock star. Support coal and you’re booed offstage. Surely opposing West Coast coal exports to Asia is the smart, environmentally and morally right thing to do.

Or is it? A series of inconvenient realities suggest otherwise.

First, despite the current trend away from coal to cheap gas, China and other developing countries will need coal for the foreseeable future. The morality of denying them access to it is questionable. For hundreds of millions in China and elsewhere, consuming coal for electricity and heat is not a choice. Removing North American coal supplies from the market will not reduce consumption, but will likely increase prices. It will also encourage coal mining in less safe jurisdictions. Is it right for us to impose such hardships on our fellow human beings while presenting no current practical alternatives?

Second, the intelligence of actively choking off coal exports is suspect. The robust emerging economies of China, India and Southeast Asia are crucial to our own economic well-being. Stock markets tremble at even the hint of a slowdown in China. Consumer confidence here lives in simpatico with Asia. How smart is it to put our foot on the brakes of those economies by increasing their energy costs?

One way some pundits make such imprudence look clever is to style natural resource wealth as a handicap, as if knowledge-based sectors falter when resource extraction thrives. But this is a false argument because the extractive sectors are knowledge-based and already rich with intellectual capital. Just ask any geologist, engineer, or GIS software designer. Resource wealth drives innovation, not the opposite.

Another inconvenient reality is that poverty in the developing world will worsen if we manipulate energy supplies. Industrialization reduces poverty by releasing agrarian families from mere subsistence. It creates higher paying jobs, enabling increased education for children and autonomy for women. Over the long term, this results in a more affluent, service- and knowledge-based economy. The energy driving this gradual process is coal. Blocking North American coal supplies to Asia risks driving up the cost of living for the world’s poor.

Making life harder for the poor through our energy agenda is not something we in the West like to contemplate. Instead, we romanticize the notion of the noble peasant farmer, living off the land with a minimal environmental footprint. Subsistence farming is not poverty, we reason, it’s a cherished traditional lifestyle we should admire. Of course, most of us don’t live those ideals ourselves, choosing rather to educate our children for knowledge-based careers in the city. The dissonance is so real we pat ourselves on the back for paying a few cents extra for fair-trade coffee, as if that rights all the wrong we are doing.

Yes, the negative environmental, health and safety impacts of coal mining and use are significant. Poor countries are not oblivious to coal’s negative impact, but they need it at present to better the standard of living for their citizens. Why not provide these countries with North American coal that’s mined according to tough environmental and safety guidelines, creating well-paying jobs and prosperous communities on this side of the Pacific?

And why not encourage them to use the latest coal burning and scrubber technologies to reduce air pollutants?

The problem with public discourse on coal is that simplistic answers are preferred over holistic, well-reasoned and defensible solutions.

Coal adds to global warming and therefore we should ban it, they say. But the truth is we can’t ban coal. Australia will be more than happy to rake in the billions we will be leaving on the table for them.

Then there’s the “leadership” argument. If we “take a stand” and “send a message” that coal is bad, we do ourselves proud. But such hectoring from one of the world’s wealthiest cities is at best sanctimonious and at worst pure, selfish NIMBYism.

Coal is not just a much-loathed rock we can toss aside; it’s part of the fabric of our human existence. We have a complex relationship with coal built over millennia. We can’t rashly break it off over night. Coal needs a little love too.

A senior adviser to Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. (greenspiritstrategies.com), David Brett has spent much of his life in the natural resources sector.

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Why B.C. needs to ‘get to yes’ on major resource projects

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Opinion: A minority’s pushback is threatening our future

Written by: John Winter, Special to the Vancouver Sun August 16, 2013

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For a province awash in talent and natural assets, it’s disturbing to see how much British Columbian ingenuity is being channelled into our province’s alarming — and growing — “culture of no.”

Robyn Allan’s attack of Northern Gateway’s job numbers (Vancouver Sun, Issues and Ideas, Aug. 13) is yet another example of that — an intellectual exercise geared at undercutting one of B.C.’s most ambitious and promising job-creating projects to date.

And for what gain?

As British Columbians, we need to sit up and take heed of where the public discourse on resource projects has got to.

From our vantage point, as a network of more than 120 Chambers and 36,000 represented businesses in communities throughout all of B.C., here’s what we’re seeing: it’s a pretty frightening place.

In virtually every corner of the province, we’re seeing the same thing: Smart, highly environmentally responsible projects that can employ our children and keep our towns alive are being battered, paralyzed and stomped out.

By whom, you ask?

Not by most of you, that’s for sure. Broad-based polling consistently finds that the majority of British Columbians favour a “getting to yes” approach to resource projects. This approach calls for top-tier environmental and social practices but, critically, wants to see sound projects succeed.

So no — the pushback on projects isn’t broad-based but rather a minority position. However, that minority pushback, through effective organization and scathing rhetoric, is threatening B.C.’s future for all of us.

And that’s where, as British Columbians, we can’t sit back and watch the “culture of no” threaten our province’s economic future.

Take the Northern Gateway project.

With its $6.5-billion price tag, the project promises to be one of the largest private investments this province has ever seen.

And while critics such as Allan may attack specific job counts, here’s what’s clear: this project will create a vast quantity of high-paying jobs in northern B.C. That’s jobs that will help communities thrive and B.C.’s broader economy to grow. (As a side point, the real problem for B.C. won’t be how many jobs Northern Gateway can create, but just how we’ll fill them all.)

For all of us B.C. taxpayers, as we brace for aging demographics and escalating health care costs, Northern Gateway means $1.2 billion in projected tax revenue to support B.C. health care, education and social programs. That’s a substantial investment in maintaining and growing B.C.’s enviable standard of living.

For B.C. businesses, perhaps one of the most promising things about this project is Enbridge’s commitment to local procurement and local jobs. That’s a commitment to employ British Columbians and keeping spinoff economic activity in the province. That means that from Terrace to Tumbler Ridge, Prince George to Prince Rupert and Vancouver to Victoria, B.C. businesses will see very real benefits from this project.

This is a great gain for B.C. small businesses, which make up 98 per cent of our provincial business community. It also aligns directly with the B.C. government’s forward-looking Small Business Accord. This accord, which the B.C. Chamber had long sought and was implemented this year, will ensure that B.C.’s small businesses have a real shot at landing procurement deals for government projects and programs.

Principles of local procurement and local jobs will only heighten the gains for small business that, as we’ve seen time and time again in B.C., are triggered by large-scale infrastructure investments in our province.

Whether it’s the Port of Prince Rupert in the northwest, oil and gas development in the northeast or investments in Port Metro Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport, these investments have catalyzed the creation and development of countless B.C. businesses.

So there’s a lot at stake here. And frankly, what’s yet to be decided has nothing to do with project economics (which, Ms. Allan, are frankly settled), but rather how we balance economic value against other B.C. priorities, as the Joint Review Panel is assessing.

And with this project, as with any that proposes such substantial benefits for B.C., we hope that British Columbians will take a close look at what’s to gain here. We certainly don’t ask that environmental or community concerns be sidelined. But we’d ask that jobs and economic value not be sidelined as well. This is our future and our kids’ future.

And if you’ve been staying out of project debates in B.C. thus far, we’d urge you to lend your voice to shifting this “culture of no.”

Because if we can pool our B.C. ingenuity and focus on building our province, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.

John Winter is president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Read the original article here.

Why B.C. needs to ‘get to yes’ on major resource projects

Vancouver Sun

Opinion: A minority’s pushback is threatening our future

Written by: John Winter, Special to the Vancouver Sun August 16, 2013

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Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat, B.C., on January 10, 2012.

Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat, B.C., on January 10, 2012.

For a province awash in talent and natural assets, it’s disturbing to see how much British Columbian ingenuity is being channelled into our province’s alarming — and growing — “culture of no.”

Robyn Allan’s attack of Northern Gateway’s job numbers (Vancouver Sun, Issues and Ideas, Aug. 13) is yet another example of that — an intellectual exercise geared at undercutting one of B.C.’s most ambitious and promising job-creating projects to date.

And for what gain?

As British Columbians, we need to sit up and take heed of where the public discourse on resource projects has got to.

From our vantage point, as a network of more than 120 Chambers and 36,000 represented businesses in communities throughout all of B.C., here’s what we’re seeing: it’s a pretty frightening place.

In virtually every corner of the province, we’re seeing the same thing: Smart, highly environmentally responsible projects that can employ our children and keep our towns alive are being battered, paralyzed and stomped out.

By whom, you ask?

Not by most of you, that’s for sure. Broad-based polling consistently finds that the majority of British Columbians favour a “getting to yes” approach to resource projects. This approach calls for top-tier environmental and social practices but, critically, wants to see sound projects succeed.

So no — the pushback on projects isn’t broad-based but rather a minority position. However, that minority pushback, through effective organization and scathing rhetoric, is threatening B.C.’s future for all of us.

And that’s where, as British Columbians, we can’t sit back and watch the “culture of no” threaten our province’s economic future.

Take the Northern Gateway project.

With its $6.5-billion price tag, the project promises to be one of the largest private investments this province has ever seen.

And while critics such as Allan may attack specific job counts, here’s what’s clear: this project will create a vast quantity of high-paying jobs in northern B.C. That’s jobs that will help communities thrive and B.C.’s broader economy to grow. (As a side point, the real problem for B.C. won’t be how many jobs Northern Gateway can create, but just how we’ll fill them all.)

For all of us B.C. taxpayers, as we brace for aging demographics and escalating health care costs, Northern Gateway means $1.2 billion in projected tax revenue to support B.C. health care, education and social programs. That’s a substantial investment in maintaining and growing B.C.’s enviable standard of living.

For B.C. businesses, perhaps one of the most promising things about this project is Enbridge’s commitment to local procurement and local jobs. That’s a commitment to employ British Columbians and keeping spinoff economic activity in the province. That means that from Terrace to Tumbler Ridge, Prince George to Prince Rupert and Vancouver to Victoria, B.C. businesses will see very real benefits from this project.

This is a great gain for B.C. small businesses, which make up 98 per cent of our provincial business community. It also aligns directly with the B.C. government’s forward-looking Small Business Accord. This accord, which the B.C. Chamber had long sought and was implemented this year, will ensure that B.C.’s small businesses have a real shot at landing procurement deals for government projects and programs.

Principles of local procurement and local jobs will only heighten the gains for small business that, as we’ve seen time and time again in B.C., are triggered by large-scale infrastructure investments in our province.

Whether it’s the Port of Prince Rupert in the northwest, oil and gas development in the northeast or investments in Port Metro Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport, these investments have catalyzed the creation and development of countless B.C. businesses.

So there’s a lot at stake here. And frankly, what’s yet to be decided has nothing to do with project economics (which, Ms. Allan, are frankly settled), but rather how we balance economic value against other B.C. priorities, as the Joint Review Panel is assessing.

And with this project, as with any that proposes such substantial benefits for B.C., we hope that British Columbians will take a close look at what’s to gain here. We certainly don’t ask that environmental or community concerns be sidelined. But we’d ask that jobs and economic value not be sidelined as well. This is our future and our kids’ future.

And if you’ve been staying out of project debates in B.C. thus far, we’d urge you to lend your voice to shifting this “culture of no.”

Because if we can pool our B.C. ingenuity and focus on building our province, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.

John Winter is president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Read the original article here.

Building oil pipelines to bring Canadian product to market is in many ways a no-brainer.

The world will not wait for Canada’s oil

Globe-&-Mail,-large

The world will not wait for Canada’s oil

Written by: Sherry Cooper, The Globe and Mail on August 06, 2013

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Building oil pipelines to bring Canadian product to market is in many ways a no-brainer.

Take for example the proposed Northern Gateway from Alberta to the West Coast and the Energy East proposal from Alberta to the East Coast.

The construction of these projects is a no-brainer because today, more than ever before, we need Canadian oil sands product to reach tidewater and international markets.

According to a recent bank report, Canadians lost $25-billion in oil revenue in 2012 due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure and continuing bottlenecks that prevent our oil from getting to the highest-paying markets.

We’ll lose another $20-billion this year and $15-billion every year going forward without new pipeline construction.

This is money that would benefit Canadians from coast to coast, helping to fund our health, education and social programs.

The time when we could depend on the United States as our sole oil and gas customer is long gone. In 2011, for the first time in more than 60 years, the US exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported.

Thanks to the shale revolution, the United States is set to become the world’s largest oil producer – overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia – just four years from now according to the International Energy Agency.

Given the U.S. is awash in oil and gas and given the country remains Canada’s only customer, Western Canadian oil sold earlier this year for a discount of as much as $43 a barrel compared to the oil known as West Texas Intermediate. And Canadian oil was discounted even further compared to the North Sea oil known as Brent. While those differentials have since narrowed, Canadian oil still trades at a significant discount.

Even more worrisome is the prediction by experts that in the foreseeable future the US won’t need Canadian oil at all. Currently, the U.S. has been able to reduce its reliance on oil from unfriendly countries such as Venezuela by replacing it with increased imports from Canada. But as U.S. oil production continues to grow rapidly, its imports of Canadian oil will inevitably decline.

Canada’s need to diversify its oil markets, then, has never been clearer. While U.S. demand for foreign oil declines, strong demand remains in emerging markets such as China and India.

So why the controversy over pipelines? Surely we must consider environmental impacts and ensure those impacts are managed and mitigated to the greatest extent possible. Proposed projects like Northern Gateway have committed to doing just that.

But pipelines are not a new, untested technology. Canadians have been building pipelines since 1853, and we’ve become leaders in innovative and safe pipeline design.

Pipelines remain the safest means of transporting large volumes of oil and gas overland.

Today’s pipelines use the latest technology, including 24/7 computerized monitoring, aerial patrols, x-ray and ultrasonic testing of welds, durable coating systems, increased pipe wall thickness and properly spaced safety control valves – just to name a few of the advances.

I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is that we start moving ahead with pipeline projects that run east to west and west to east. And let’s not consider the Energy East pipeline as a replacement for Northern Gateway or vice versa – true market diversification means we need both.

Yes, there are risks with moving forward, as there are with any energy development.

But I believe the risks of not doing so are far greater. Indeed, if we fail to build new pipeline infrastructure, we are risking the future prosperity of this country.

Norway made the right decision in developing its offshore oil and gas reserves. It now enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and its health, social and educational programs are second to none.

Closer to home, Newfoundland has developed its offshore oil and gas sector, becoming a “have” province for the first time in history and enriching its citizens and Canada as a whole.

Endlessly debating the pros and cons of pipeline development will get us nowhere.

The world will not wait for Canadian oil. If we can’t deliver the goods, markets will find other suppliers, including growing shale oil and gas deposits in the United States.

Determining what share of the windfall each province receives is a detail that can be worked out at the negotiating table – but not having inter-provincial agreements now is no reason to delay the decision-making process.

So let’s commit to new, safe and environmentally-sound pipeline infrastructure that runs east to west and west to east and will get our oil to market responsibly – and let’s do it now.

Because whether you’re from B.C., Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick or another province, we’re all Canadians, and we’ll all benefit when our oil can be sold on the international market for a fair price.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-world-will-not-wait-for-canadas-oil/article13608302/

Sherry Cooper is financial advisor to MDC Partners Inc. and former executive vice-president and chief economist at Bank of Montreal.