Peter Boag
President and CEO, Canadian Fuels Association

October 2019

In the national interest

Like you, I am still recovering from the 40-day federal election campaign that concluded with the governing Liberals being reduced to a minority government. While elections are, by nature, divisive exercises – the 2019 election set a new standard – and not in a good way - with regions deeply divided on a range of issues – including energy and climate change.

Consider the following:
The Liberal Party, in spite of winning a large minority was entirely shut out in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  While there were many issues at play, there is no doubt that a key driver was the Trudeau Government’s perceived inability to deliver on policies that would boost the oil and gas sector by improving market access and encouraging new investments. This, in spite of the fact that the Liberal Government bought the Trans-Mountain pipeline in its last mandate and remains committed to the pipeline expansion (TMX); a pledge the Prime Minister reiterated last week.

The Conservatives, who came second in the number of MPs elected but won the popular vote – based largely on their ‘pro’ oil and gas sector policies and massive vote counts in Alberta and Saskatchewan –  proposed to undo the current federal carbon pricing review, and offered few details on an alternative climate change agenda.
 
For their part, the NDP and Greens vigorously opposed the TMX, and along with the Bloc Qu├ębecois any additional new pipeline projects, and leveraged this with voters in B.C and Quebec respectively to discredit the Liberal resolve to take action on climate change. Meanwhile, the NDP and the Green Party are both on the record as supporting new domestic petroleum refining projects. In fact, the NDP platform pledged to “prioritize domestic upgrading and refining”, yet both oppose pipeline projects necessary to provide access to domestic crude for refineries in eastern Canada.

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell was unfortunately and famously paraphrased as saying “an election is no time to discuss serious issues”, and the 2019 campaign closely held itself to that standard. What little discussion there was on energy matters was limited to vacuous and at times contradictory soundbites.  Nonetheless, the mere mention of the refining sector and support energy infrastructure projects like TMX by those who also espouse effective action on climate change, is cause for hope that the role energy plays in Canadian’s prosperity represents common ground for a pragmatic agenda that serves our national interests.
  
Canadians in every region of this country, urban, suburban or rural, have a stake in this.  Energy drives our economy and sustains our prosperity.  Energy production and distribution employ hundreds of thousands of Canadians in high quality jobs, and is the destination for billions of dollars of investment every year, much of it focussed on innovation.  Energy products like petroleum fuels keep every sector or our economy moving, from agriculture to forestry to mining to tourism and packaged goods.  And they make possible our daily commutes, our everyday errands, our well-deserved vacation travel, and so much more.  The very essence of our society demands reliable, convenient and affordable access to energy 24/7.
 
Climate change is real and, as demonstrated by the recent election campaign, a defining issue of our time.  The vast majority of Canadians voted for action on climate change.  Yet, any climate change agenda that ignores our energy realities does a disservice to all Canadians.   This is where pragmatism is essential to moving past the divisive politics of this most recent election campaign and plotting an effective and achievable path forward that can last beyond the next political cycle.
   
To be sure, the future is not today’s status quo.  Transformative change is our future and Canadian refiners are already actively engaged in developing the solutions of tomorrow; but disruptive change that ignores practical repercussions on our daily lives is not in Canadians’ best interests. 

In the next Parliament we encourage MPs of all parties to work together to seek common ground and create a pragmatic action plan ‘built for success’. An action plan that rises above campaign rhetoric, vote shares and regional divisions, and serves our national interest. That’s something we’ll wholeheartedly support!

Canadian Fuels Association