While common opinions about the energy sector are contentious, support for the energy sector is growing – and it can be attributed to the industry’s approach to responsibility. Canadians are increasingly aware of Canada’s investments in Indigenous participation and environmental sustainability in the energy industry. And it’s becoming a salient issue for the election.
In an unprecedented show of support for Canada’s energy sector, Federal parties of all stripes joined together to prevent the closure of Line 5 – a cross-border energy pipeline that powers Central and Eastern Canada. MPs joined together to call on the State of Michigan to keep the pipeline flowing – recognizing the thousands of families, including many in Sarnia, whose jobs rely on the pipelines.
They heard testimony from labour leaders, businesses, and workers who could foresee the impacts of a shutdown – ranging from energy shortages to increased lineups at border crossings like the Ambassador Bridge – all stemming from the short-sighted shutdown. And Canadians listened.
But each day, voters are bombarded with messages attacking the energy sector. But there are two sides to every story – and the industry is fighting back with action.
In a recent poll by Leger, Canadians were evenly split on whether we should export more oil to global markets to replace production by less responsible countries – far from the resounding majority that some would lead you to believe oppose the energy sector.
Outside of Quebec, Canadians agree that the energy sector is taking tangible steps to increase Indigenous participation in the industry. According to the exclusive polling by Leger for the Modern Miracle Network, support outside of Quebec ranges from 55% to 74%.
While these split polls suggest that the energy sector still has work to do in ensuring that the industry is better understood by Canadians, it confirms a significant increase in support for the sector.
Canadian petroleum producers are leaders in environmental and social responsibility. We follow higher ethical standards than other large oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia. We invest in our communities and advocate for Indigenous participation.
Take Canada’s approach to climate change as an example. Since 2012, Canadian energy producers have invested more than $1 billion per year into research and development targeted towards reducing gas emissions and finding effective solutions to climate change. Canada is a global leader in carbon capture – technologies that prevent carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
In partnership with the federal government, the industry has developed cutting edge technology to capture, store, and convert greenhouse gas emissions into renewable resources. We have an opportunity to export our own technology to global markets and change the way the world thinks about energy production. We’re leaders – and Canadians are taking notice.
The industry’s development doesn’t stop there.
Polling shows that voters are increasingly aware of Indigenous investment in the energy sector – and participation is continuing to increase.
Indigenous communities have invested in more than 500 joint ventures with the energy sector – more than any other industry in Canada. These partnerships offer a stable foundation for First Nations to develop independent economies and fund government works; providing a cornerstone for self-determination. While rarely publicized, Indigenous governments in Western Canada have emerged as prominent participants in the petroleum industry.
Beyond financial programs, many large employers including pipelines and refineries operate successful programs which provide skilled trade apprenticeships to members of Indigenous communities. The energy sector is taking a leading role in supporting Indigenous economic development – but it’s a little-known fact.
While we may not consider many prominent characterizations of the energy sector’s relations with Indigenous groups to be fair, perceptions of the sector are shifting.
Natural resource development is facing opposition from sophisticated, well-funded activists. They’re setting the narrative but it’s critical that we maintain an informed and reasoned conversation – something missing from the current dialogue.
While parties are increasingly leaning towards anti-energy positions, they would be wise to support a sustainable future for the energy sector. Canadians understand the importance of energy to our economy and their everyday lives.
If the numbers are any indication, it’s time for candidates to have a serious, reasoned discussion about a sustainable future for Canadian energy.
Michael Binnion is the executive director of the Modern Miracle Network, whose mission is to encourage Canadians to have reasoned conversations about energy issues, and CEO of Questerre Energy Corporation, which is seeking to apply circular economy technologies to a natural gas discovery in Quebec.