Two weeks ago in the Manitoban, David Scammell proposed cutting off all support for Canadian energy infrastructure. In his article, Mr. Scammell wrote “in order to stop our dependency on oil we must first stop the construction of infrastructure to support inexpensive consumption of fossil fuels.”
Before we look at the consequences of this proposal, let’s look at the role that Canadian energy plays in our economy.
According to the Canadian National Energy Board, the Canadian Energy Industry directly accounts for 9.9 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and directly employs 365,000 people. According to this same report, energy export revenues accounted for 20 per cent of the value of all Canadian exports, for a total of $87 billion dollars.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI)—an independent, not for profit research establishment—also makes clear the importance of Canadian energy, specifically in regards to the oil sands: “Other provincial governments, as well as municipal governments, receive tax revenue as a result of investment and employment in the oil sands. CERI estimates oil sands will create more than $307 billion in tax revenue across Canada over the next 25 years. Nearly 61 per cent, or $187 billion, will go to the federal government.”
This Canadian energy sector revenue goes towards healthcare, education, roads, and plays a vital role in securing our quality of life.
Knowing these facts, it is clear that three things would immediately occur if all support for Canadian energy infrastructure was cut off:
Investment in the Canadian Energy Industry—an industry that accounts for nearly one tenth of our economy—would collapse.
Thousands of working Canadians in the energy sector—which directly employs 365,000 people—would lose their jobs.
Our healthcare and educational systems would be devastated, as the financial support the energy sector provides through economic growth and revenue simply would evaporate. Seniors and students would suffer immensely.
There are real consequences behind seemingly benign comments to end the “inexpensive consumption of fossil fuels.” We know that an end to the “inexpensive consumption of fossil fuels” means the beginning of the expensive consumption of fossil fuels. We will still need cars and buses. We will still need to fly and heat our homes. Consumption will not go away. Cutting off support for Canadian energy infrastructure would devastate our economy, causing an immediate and noticeable decline in your quality of life.
Another consequence of cutting off support for Canadian energy infrastructure would be forcing people in the Canadian energy industry to work in crumbling and dangerous buildings and jobsites, greatly increasing the risk that they could be injured or killed while on the job. This would be caused by facilities wearing down over time, and not being repaired or replaced. This is unacceptable. Those who provide us with the energy our economy needs deserve to work in the safest possible conditions.
Rather than the radical approach of cutting off our energy investments, it makes much more sense to take a balanced approach that protects our environment and invests in new sources of Canadian energy, as well as enhancing our infrastructure. Canadians support this balanced approach, as evidenced in a poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid showing that 65 per cent of Canadians agree that “it is possible to increase oil and gas production while protecting the environment at the same time.”
Ending support for Canadian energy infrastructure would also take money out of your pockets and give it away to foreign oil producing nations. Mr. Scammell also states in his article, “In contrast if we reduced the extraction rate the current infrastructure would be usable for a longer period, essentially making the profits for companies higher and leaving no need to build more infrastructure.”
This would result in an increased reliance on imported energy from unstable regions of the world. It does not make sense to severely damage the Canadian Energy industry in order to increase the profits of unstable, undemocratic foreign oil regimes.
It must be made clear that cutting off support for Canadian energy infrastructure would directly hurt you, your family, and our entire economy.
In his article, Mr. Scammell also stated that he doesn’t like the “ugly eyesores of oil platforms, refineries, and pipelines.” Our Canadian Energy infrastructure may not always be pleasing to the eyes, but those who advocate cutting off support for this infrastructure must explain how we can sustain our economy and quality of life without oil platforms, refineries, and pipelines. They must explain how we can fund healthcare and post-secondary education without the revenue the Canadian energy sector provides. And they must explain how we can provide support to our seniors and students when their anti-infrastructure proposals cause our economy to decline and poverty to increase.
Instead of cutting off support for Canadian energy infrastructure, we are much better off staying on the path we are on, a path that is balanced and based upon common sense: Supporting Canadian energy exploration, investing in infrastructure, innovation and research, and ensuring that energy is available and affordable, while at the same time investing in environmental protection to protect our shared natural heritage. This balanced approach will ensure that our quality of life is secured and protected.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.