Canadian oilsands producers reach out to voters

Canadian oilsands producers reach out to voters

As a federal election looms, oilsands CEOs want the public to influence political decision making. 

Three of Canada’s largest oilsands producers published full-page ads in around 30 English and French newspapers across Canada Thursday, asking voters to “influence the outcome” of major decisions to be taken on the oil and gas sector. 

The CEOs of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc. and MEG Energy Corp. are asking readers to pressure “leaders of all political stripes” to lend their support to the energy industry.

MEG Energy CEO Derek Evans said the unusual campaign is happening now because candidates for Canada’s fall election are currently busy meeting voters. 

The open letter accepts that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced but it defends the environmental record of the oilsands, arguing that emissions intensity per barrel produced has dropped by some 40% over the past two decades. 

It further points out that Canada’s energy companies produce a product that continues to be needed despite the growth of the renewable energy sector, adding that oil and gas producers are the country’s single largest investors in green technology.

Evans told CBC that the campaign is not partisan, despite the Liberals recently adopting Bills C-69 and C-48, which aim to ramp up regulation on energy producers.  

“It’s not the governments that need to change, it’s the message the people of the country send to those governments,” Evans said. “I’m fine with having Justin Trudeau as prime minister if he embraces a philosophy with respect to energy that says that Canada has a much larger role to play on the global stage and we need to encourage that part of our sector.”


Competing narratives

Notable for their absence among the signees to the letter were Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s largest oil and gas company by market capitalization, along with Imperial Oil Ltd. and Husky Energy Inc., all of which have refining and retail sales arms as well as oilsands operations.

Those companies have said they support the general goals of the petition but have chosen different ways to communicate, Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix told CBC.

He added that the letter forms part of a new strategy by the industry to reclaim the public narrative that energy producers believe has been taken over by opponents.

“One that can contribute to solving the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most responsible way possible today,” the letter reads. 

The letter was published a day after the Petroleum Services Association of Canada cut its drilling forecast for the second time this year, to 5,100 wells from 5,300 in its May revision.


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