Ask Colin Griffith a question and the champion curler chooses his words as carefully as he would weight a draw to the pin. That’s especially true when you ask about the rules, regulations and science behind natural resource development.
“When we’re talking about resource development we need to understand that we can’t be standing on the sidelines arguing while the rest of the world and its demands and needs go around us,” says Griffith.
“If we want to enjoy the quality of life that we’ve had for the past number of decades, then we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with all of the issues that are starting to stymie our decision-making process.”
With 50 years of experience working in local government in northern B.C., Griffith knows whereof he speaks. As Executive Director of the North East B.C. Resource Municipalities Coalition, he’s helping communities build their economies and maintain their quality of life. And he has no doubt the natural resource sector is critical to their prosperity – and Canada’s.
“Canada and its future is going to be completely linked to the world demand for many, many of our resources, whether its minerals or hydro-electric, softwood or oil and gas,” he says.
“We are what we are and that’s not going to change in the short term. We have a tremendous dependency on the fact that we’re a resource-producing part of the world and we’ve been blessed with fantastic resources.”
Developing B.C.’s natural resources to meet those demands requires regulatory and approval processes that can make timely decisions. So when you ask Griffith about the NDP’s proposed scientific panel to review whether gas is produced safely and the environment is protected, he pauses like he’s studying a double takeout in the 10th end.
“I think what we have to be so careful about is that we don’t get into the situation where we have competing scientists and bodies of evidence that basically are diametrically opposed to each other,” he says.
“Canada, without a doubt, is a world leader in terms of the environmental standards that we demand of all the resource companies that are developing our resources in this country.”
Griffith has witnessed those standards in action firsthand, including visits to numerous fracking operations.
“All of the operations on those sites are extremely sophisticated and the environmental steps, processes and procedures that you have to abide by even if you’re just participating in a visit to a site like that are phenomenal. I don’t think there’s a widespread awareness of that,” he says.
Other industry analysts are far blunter in their assessment of the NDP scientific review. They see it as an instrument for a New Democrat government to delay or derail projects like the development of the Montney Basin natural gas reserves in Northeast B.C. The panel might also impose severe restrictions or an outright ban of fracking, which would cripple a large portion of the exploration industry.
The issues around oil and gas exploration and development are becoming more complex every year. That complexity is a challenge to both elected officials and voters. Griffith says it may not be perfect, but the existing system is a world leader. And if Canadians want to maintain their standard of living, they should make sure it can continue to make decisions in a reasonable timeframe.
“We have a quality of life, we have health and education systems that need to be maintained, we have an increasing population and more sophisticated demands placed on our governments at all times,” says Griffith.
“What’s going to be very imperative over the long term is just the simple capacity for our governments to meet the demands that come from all of our citizens and that is going to require us to participate in the world markets and in terms of being a world player. Many of our resources are absolutely going to be critical to the quality of life and the evolution economically of many of the countries in this world.