THE BLOG

Pembina Activist Group Is Out Of Step

06/26/2017 11:14 EDT | Updated 06/26/2017 11:14 EDT
Chris Helgren / Reuters
Crude oil tanks at Kinder Morgan's terminal are seen in Sherwood Park, near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada November 13, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

It's official. A global polling firm recently found that many countries around the world want more -- not less -- Canadian-sourced energy products.

In fact, according to the Ipsos poll of 22,000 people in 32 countries, 31 per cent said Canada is the preferred choice for oil and natural gas imports, topping the list of 11 producing countries.

On a different front, another finding of high confidence in Canada's energy sector was seen in last week's vote in Canada's Parliament where a vast majority of MPs supported the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

With 252 House members voting in favour of the motion that recognized the project has achieved "social license," is critical to Canadian jobs and the economy and sound from an environmental, health and safety perspective, this vote signaled strongly that the expansion should move forward as soon as possible.

("Social license" is the characteristic whereby a project not only conforms to all relevant laws, but also has the general backing of the community at large.)

Only 52 MPs voted against the motion. With such a large majority of MPs voting in favour of this important project, I hope it's now clear to everybody that it, the company and our country has the "social license" -- and even the social obligation -- to move ahead.

Along the same lines, those international polling results from Ipsos for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) tell a very positive story about the world's acceptance of Canadian energy products. Even more important was the finding that more than half the global respondents felt they didn't know enough about Canadian energy products to form an opinion.

Why is that finding so important? It's because it points to a giant opportunity for Canada. The polling seems to say that "to know Canada is to love it." More than half the respondents -- well over 10,000 people -- need more information on Canada and its energy industry.

Given the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates global energy demand will rise 31 per cent by 2040, it follows that industry and governments should fill the knowledge gap on Canada before some other group decides to fill it for us. Canada is already a leader in renewable energy production and investment, and while the world needs all forms of energy, the demand for oil and gas continues to grow.

We know that organizations like Pembina Institute, 350 dot org and Stand (formerly known as Forest Ethics) have spent many years and millions of dollars to build a coordinated U.S.-Canada activist campaign (self-described as the "tar sands campaign"). This campaign aims to brand our oil and gas sector as environmentally destructive and prevent Canada from achieving global free trade for our energy resources (the tight U.S.-Canada coordination is said to have ended in 2014 in the face of much Canadian public pressure, although the misinformation continues).

But Pembina, the leading Canadian player mentioned in documents describing the U.S. activist campaign against Canada's oil and gas sector, remains an outlier.

Pembina's interest in having informed conversations about Canadian pipelines or the oil sands themselves appears limited. The group has yet to explain its role in the infamous U.S.-foundation-driven "tar sands campaign" that takes credit for preventing pipeline construction and for stifling Canada's energy industry.

And Pembina continues to refuse to hold an open conversation about all of this. The organization did once accept a third-party invitation to a written debate with me. Formatted as a question-and-answer feature, my detailed answers were submitted in advance of deadline; Pembina, however, backed out at the last second.

Here's how Alberta Oil Magazine explained the incident:

"The Pembina Institute accepted Alberta Oil's challenge to face off against Canada Action in an online debate about key energy and environment issues. Unfortunately, Pembina declined at the last minute, having first been granted a deadline extension, so we bring you Canada Action's ideas and arguments."

There are some real opportunities in the pipeline, if you'll pardon the pun. Strong bipartisan support for the Trans Mountain expansion project as demonstrated in the recent House vote points to one of those opportunities. Another is the fact the Ipsos poll seems to show good global support for Canadian energy where there is a reasonable knowledge of Canada itself.

Would I like to see Pembina, Greenpeace and other Canadian groups join with us in a positive discussion about these matters? Sure. But I also know Greenpeace, Pembina and the like remain committed to blindly opposing Canada's oil and gas sector; blind opposition appears to be their sole job.

But for the rest of the country that pays attention to real employment, real economic prosperity, and real environmental and social protections, there's plenty of blue sky ahead if we simply agree to engage in a real, honest conversations about Canadian energy.

Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.