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Climate change debate polarization shows lack of leadership, says oilsands CEO

Polarization of the climate change debate as it relates to the role of the Canadian energy industry indicates an “extreme” lack of leadership from all political parties in Canada, says the CEO of oilsands producer MEG Energy Corp.

Speaking at the Natural Resources Summit in Calgary, Derek Evans said he’s frustrated by the wide gulf in views exhibited by parties in the run-up to the Oct. 21 election.

“Some of us have banged on the prime minister’s door and said, ‘I would like to talk to you,’ but I can’t get in. Either I’m not big enough, I’m not loud enough, I don’t represent enough people,”’ he said.

“We’re not shying away from trying to get in there and create those conversations but I’ll go out on a limb and say I have never seen such an extreme lack of leadership across all parties about something that is as central and as critical to the jobs and the economy of this country.”

With polls showing the front-running Liberals and Conservatives in a close race, some observers have suggested a minority government might have to rely on support of the NDP or the Green Party, both of which have signalled they will not support expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline that Ottawa bought last year for $4.5 billion.

Evans told reporters later he couldn’t expand on his views of the leadership issue because of new election rules that could result in him being fined if he says too much during the campaign.

Both Evans and Steve Laut, vice-chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., said they are working toward an ultimate goal of taking their companies to “net zero” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

MEG will accomplish that through efficiencies in using steam and solvents at its oilsands works and with carbon capture and storage, Evans said.

“It’s a multitude of technologies, a multitude of process changes that we’re working on,” said Laut, citing continuous improvements in oilsands extraction, carbon capture and storage and carbon capture and conversion, where new products are made from captured carbon.

Neither would provide a timeline to reach their goals.

Claims of cleaner Canadian energy are suspicious, said Jesse Firempong of Greenpeace Canada, citing studies that show the industry is fourth-most greenhouse gas intensive in the world and that average emissions per barrel increased between 1990 and 2017.

Canadian Natural says it cut its corporate GHG intensity per barrel by 20 per cent between 2014 and 2018.

The summit, held to examine how the energy sector is dealing with rising environmental opposition such as last Friday’s climate strike, was hosted by the Canadian Global Cities Council, a group of eight metro chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Canada.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade supports oil and gas because of the economic benefits the country as a whole gains from having a healthy energy sector, said CEO Jan De Silva.

“Jobs solve a lot of challenges for everyone in our communities,” she said.

“These are not Alberta’s issues alone. How Canada can be a leader in natural resources and lead the world in clean tech matters greatly to Toronto and to the entire country.”


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For Canadians, food affordability is top agri-food issue in election: Survey

With the upcoming federal election, party leaders have a lot issues on their plates, but food and agriculture may not be one of them.

A recent survey by Angus Reid Global, in partnership with Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, found that only 31% of Canadians believe food and agriculture will be a prime electoral issue. Just 25% of respondents in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario believe food and agriculture will be a key issue, compared to 46% of Quebecers.

“Food and agriculture has never been as hot of an issue as it is now … but when the elections come, people think about other issues like jobs, healthcare and education,” says Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. “These issues are obviously very important, but food and agriculture represents the largest manufacturing sector in the country. Most Canadians spend well over 10% of their budget on food so I think we should talk about it [during elections].”

When asked which agri-food issues deserve more attention during the federal election campaign, food security and affordability ranked number-one, with 60% of Canadians saying it’s an important issue.

Manitoba and the Atlantic region have the most respondents believing food security and affordability is an important election issue in agri-food, both at 68%.

When asked what should be the next government’s priority in agri-food over the next four years, food security and affordability also came out on top, at 55%.

“I think the results point to the fact that people are dealing with stagnant wages and higher consumer debt. People are feeling the pressure,” says Charlebois. “For example, fruit and vegetable prices have gone up 17% this year. If you increase your prices by 3% steadily every year, I don’t think people would mind that much. But when it goes up 17%, people notice.”

The survey also found that the use of plastics in the food industry has clearly caught the attention of voters: 54% of respondents believe the use of plastics in food is an important electoral issue.

Food waste was identified as the third most important agri-food issue for Canadians. A total of 61% of Quebecers believe food waste is an important issue for the upcoming election, compared to 45% in Atlantic Canada.

When it comes to agri-food trade policy, Canada is a “highly divided country,” says Charlebois. The issue of supply management and our quota system ranked the highest in Saskatchewan, with 35% saying it deserves more attention during the election campaign, compared to 32% of Ontarians and 27% of Quebecers.

In Saskatchewan, 51% believe global trades for the agri-food sector is important issue for this campaign, compared to only 19% in Quebec.

“Canada’s breadbasket, which is the Prairies, will see trade very differently than say, Quebec. And that comes out in the survey for sure with supply management,” says Charlebois.

Finally, Canadians were asked which national party is best positioned to support the agri-food sector. The Conservatives are seen as the best national stewards for the agri-food sector, followed by the Liberals and the Green Party. However, the number of respondents who are unsure is very high, at 42% nationwide.

The sample size for the survey was 1,524 from across the country, with a margin of error of less than 3%, 19 times out of 20.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer