I’ve called Fort McMurray my home for over five decades. In the past several years, it has grown into a truly a world-class community to work, live and build a family.
More than any other town in Alberta, we have seen the booms and the busts, but we always come out stronger.
Our people are intelligent, resourceful and resilient. In no other place in Canada, will you hear of a people as generous, hospitable and entrepreneurial as the people of Fort McMurray.
In a year where the shock in the drop of global commodity prices has hit our town hard, the food bank and hospital met their fundraising goals for the year. The Wood Buffalo region in fact leads the nation in volunteering and charitable donations.
And of course, we understand the incredible importance of Alberta’s energy sector to our nation’s prosperity.
The decline in the price of oil has already cost Canada a loss of $50 billion in national income according to the Bank of Canada. Delays on approving important pipeline projects is costing Canadian producers, and the tax revenues they generate for governments, $30 to $50 million per day. Projects based on future growth are now on hold. Work camps, once full with Canadians across the country, have shrunk significantly, or vanished entirely.
When Fort McMurray is hurting, it means Alberta and the rest of Canada are hurting too.
In Ontario, there are more than 1,100 companies currently supplying Alberta’s industry, and another 170 in Quebec. Altogether, more than 2,000 companies outside Alberta are doing business with Canadian oilsands producers in Alberta. These are huge investments that come with tens-of-thousands of good paying jobs.
And let’s not forget, a job is not a statistic. It’s somebody’s life. Behind every job, there’s a Canadian.
Being from Fort McMurray, I can tell you, when you’re sitting on one of the world’s largest oil reserves, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in being known for your resources.
What we need is signals from provincial and federal governments that they are ready to back the responsible development of these resources. The facts are, no one in the world is better at the environmental extraction of our oil.
Other jurisdictions, like California and Venezuela, have a much higher impact in greenhouse gas emissions per barrel, yet we never see protests and campaigns from celebrity activists opposing their development.
When foreign-funded agitators are spreading fear and loathing about Alberta and our town, we expect to hear a full-throated defence of our province, our industry and our way of life.
In Alberta, all land disturbed by oil sands activity must be reclaimed. There are multiple levels of independent testing of industry’s impact on fresh water downstream. And Fort McMurray has among the cleanest air of all Canadian cities. Since 1990, our energy producers have achieved a remarkable 26 per cent reduction in per barrel emissions.
Our energy sector should be celebrated, and the solutions to the challenges we are facing are right in front of us.
When combining Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion and Energy East, there are over $30 billion in pipeline projects ready to build. Over the next 30 years, these projects would bring an estimated $430 billion in economic spinoffs for all of Canada.
In the short-term, they would provide tens-of-thousands of construction jobs and send the signal to investors world-wide that Alberta and Canada are open for business.
We of all people, should not shrink from greatness.
Projects like Energy East, or Trans Mountain, or Northern Gateway – these are the railroads of the 21st century.
People in Fort McMurray understand this. We are encouraged by the support we have heard for our main industry from across Canada, it’s time for politicians standing in the way to start listening.
Brian Jean is Wildrose Leader and MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin