Black press file photo Chris Gardener

Will our energy sector come back?

For years, Kinder Morgan worked to “get to yes” on its plan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. They met with Indigenous communities, with municipalities, with businesses, with politicians, with NGOs, and with concerned citizens. They saw new governments rise – Rachel Notley in Alberta, Justin Trudeau in Ottawa – and after years of effort, and a 29-month independent review by the National Energy Board, Trans Mountain got its “yes,” subject to 157 environmental and technical conditions. The project was then approved by prime minister Trudeau. The B.C. government followed suit, adding another 37 conditions.

For Canadians worried about the risks of an oil spill, 194 conditions plus a commitment by the federal government to invest$1.5 billion to protect our coast line, should provide comfort that no jurisdiction in the world brings its natural resources to market as safely as Canada. However, it appears “get to yes” is just one step in a very long journey. Once approved, the challenge becomes “sticking to yes.”

Desjardins, the biggest credit union group in the country, announced earlier this month that it would stop funding pipeline projects in Canada. This shift in policy could impact not only Trans Mountain but also other important pipeline projects.Desjardins was pressured by radical activists who oppose nearly everything about Canada’s energy industry and, given their announcement, Desjardins seems to be throwing in the towel.

In a letter to Desjardins that included the signatures of 11 American groups, plus three from Europe, the activists were dead wrong on number of key points – that Alberta’s oil industry is “massively destructive” (it isn’t), that Trans Mountain “abuses”Indigenous people (it doesn’t), that it will make our iconic orcas go extinct (it won’t), that pipelines have too many leaks already (they don’t), and that the Fraser River will be damaged (it won’t).

The fact that a large Canadian financial institution like Desjardins is buckling to activists who have no interest in an honest debate on Canada’s energy resources, is troubling.

The energy sector accounts for a significant part of Canada’s prosperity. To be sure, there are important issues that need to be independently assessed when considering any large project, but this has to be done within a reasonable timeframe. But once the review is done, the conditions attached, and governments have provided their stamp of approval, projects need to move forward.

Anything else would send a dangerous message to businesses and investors. We risk being labelled a place where it is simply too difficult to get things done, or worse, a place where regulatory approvals are not worth the paper they are printed on.

The result: businesses and investors taking their ideas, their people and their capital elsewhere. It’s already started. Over the past two years, some of the largest energy companies in the world have passed over Canada for more investor-friendly jurisdictions.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) has launched a campaign asking Canadians to go toGet2Yes.ICBA.ca and send an email to Desjardins CEO Guy Cormier, asking him to reconsider. Maybe hearing from thousands of people across Canada will cause Desjardins to rethink its position.

If we expect the wealth, innovation and investment that flows from harnessing Canada’s rich natural resources to flow as freely as it did before the decline in commodity prices, everyone should be standing up for Canadian energy, Canadian jobs and made-in-Canada decisions that benefit all Canadians.

Chris Gardner is the President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association