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Apr 10, 2015

Canada's Oil Sands: The Truth Unveiled

As a recognized business leader in Kelowna, I was invited to participate in a Canadian Chamber of Commerce Energy Tour that provided an in-depth opportunity to hear from a good cross section of energy companies and actually go on mine sites in Fort McMurray.


My perceptions on the opportunity, constraints and threats to this economic behemoth as it relates to our local community and to Canada are as follows;


I agree with the views of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Rather than being seen as a negative force, the oil sands or other major natural resource developments (including mining, forestry and energy) Canadians must view these projects as generational opportunities for economic growth. We must leverage and harness their development to maximize economic opportunity today and for future generations.


The twelve companies I met on my trip had something in common beyond oil sands, the staff demonstrated pride in the work they do and are professionals in their field, most career oil production people. The commitment to working under the strictest federal government regulations and their passion for improving environmental conditions was evident and credible.

Between 1990 and 2012, GHG emissions associated with every barrel of oil sands crude produced were reduced by 28%. Today, Canada's oil sands only account for 0.13% of the entire world's GHG emissions.


I saw evidence of environmental collaboration, as oil sands companies have formed OSIA,Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. Through COSIA, participating companies capture, develop and share the most innovative approaches and best thinking to improve environmental performance in the oil sands, focusing on four Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs) - tailings, water, land and greenhouse gases. There is collaboration and transparent exchange that is reducing environmental impacts and costs of production. Both are positives to us as consumers.


Petroleum exporters are also making great strides in reducing their environmental footprint.


It was clear to me personally, that for transporting oil safely for long distances, pipelines are unmatched in their safety performances.  In fact I feel very strongly that Canada needs to export oil products to Asia markets. I would much rather have Canada extracting and shipping oil with our strict regulatory conditions than, Asia purchasing from countries with less than stellar safety records or government instability. We all use products derived from oil every day, from plastic cellular cases, to computers and tires for our bikes or shoes on our feet. Let's get real, the world needs oil to make products and move the products to stores and homes.


Apparently, Canada's role as a responsible innovator in commodity production is matched by the resources sector's ability to pay good wages. Mining, oil and gas extraction wages flow back to every province as do the workers that call B.C. home. Resource jobs produced up to 15 times more value for Canada's economy than the average job. Recent talk of raising minimum wages would be moot points if people searching for real raises identified fields that create the most value, and then search out the training needed.


Manufacturers play a critical role in this development. In 2010, B.C. manufacturers sold over $6 billion worth of high tech products and services into the development and operation of Alberta's oil sands. It is a large and growing portion of sales for many sectors and many companies - especially those manufacturing machinery and equipment, steel and steel products, and construction equipment. And these opportunities are being felt right across the country in every province and region including here in the Okanagan.



Canadian manufacturers can focus their attention on how can continue to grow their sales into the oil sands and capture more of these opportunities.


As a first step, Canada's manufacturers must understand the specific opportunities that oil sands development offers them. Second, governments, oil sands producers and manufacturers must work much more closely together to improve domestic supply chains and to make them more efficient.


Perhaps most importantly, we must all work together to ensure that Canadians fully understand and appreciate the economic importance of natural resource development, and specifically Alberta's oil sands, to ensure their development continues responsibility and is not unnecessary restricted.

Canada's forest product producers are also constantly adapting to service the world's marketplace.

As the Forest Products Association of Canada said recently, business as usual is no longer an option. The industry employs more than 235,000 Canadians and plans to renew its workforce by 2020. It's also one of Canada's most innovative and sustainable sectors. This sector too is demonstrating environmental responsibility. In fact, a recent report found Canada has only a .2% deforestation rate while also leading the world in forest product exports.


I urge you to consider this. Ensure that your opinions are based on today's facts. Today's oil sands do not resemble the first mining foray.Today's natural resource industries, are responsible, transparent, motivated to reduce emissions and lower environmental impacts. They are also critical to our economic future. I stand behind the technology and the knowledge that leads Canadian resource development.


-Caroline Grover, CEO, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce