Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

A delegation of business leaders is attempting to dispel "falsehoods"

Alberta group makes case for oil sands

A delegation of business leaders is attempting to dispel falsehoods and
make the case for the oil sands to politicians in Ottawa

Nathan VanderKlippe
Globe and Mail
May. 13, 2010

A group of high-powered Alberta business leaders is in Ottawa this week on
what they are calling a “a trade mission to the capital of our own

Their goal: promote the oil sands as what John Ferguson, chairman of
Suncor Energy Inc., calls a “great Canadian treasure.” Alberta’s bitumen
is, they say, not a festering sore on Canada’s environmental record, but
instead a wellspring of great wealth and cutting-edge innovation that is
helping to green Fort McMurray’s “dirty oil.”

In meetings with senators, cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, 50
Albertans are attempting to head off the global criticism that has
descended upon their province in an attempt to establish trust with those
policy makers who will one day write the greenhouse gas, tax and other
rules that could potentially harm the oil sands.

They are arguing that the oil sands, contrary to popular belief, have a
strong record on the environment, are critically important to the economic
well-being of the country as a whole and don’t deserve to face the brunt
of greenhouse gas reduction policies.

They have come armed with facts. Last year alone, they say, the oil sands
invested $30-billion in infrastructure, more than any government stimulus
program in North America. In the next two decades, according to one
estimate, companies will pour $218-billion into new oil sands projects, a
tally that will cause a giant ripple across the country.

It isn’t all going to Alberta. Last year, Suncor alone spent $401-million
in Quebec and another $1.37-billion in Ontario, out a total of
$4.2-billion spent on capital and exploration.

“A lot of places in Eastern Canada think the only real benefit [of the oil
sands] is that their people go out and work in Fort McMurray and get jobs
for a while. A lot of them don’t realize the real economic benefit,” Mr.
Ferguson said. “The other factor is, they haven’t been able to really
understand the progress that we’ve been making on the environment.”

Over the course of the week, the group plans to meet with Finance Minister
Jim Flaherty, Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan, Industry
Minister Tony Clement and Environment Minister Jim Prentice. It also met
with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and much of the Liberal caucus.

“The key message is that a strong Alberta is a strong Canada,” said David
Maclean, a vice-president with the Alberta Enterprise Group, which
organized the delegation.

But although Mr. Maclean said the business leaders did not come with a
specific “ask” – for either policy measures or funding – the Canadian
Manufacturers & Exporters, which has accompanied the group, has petitioned
Ottawa for a number of changes. Among them are an extension of the
accelerated writeoffs for manufacturing investments, lower EI premiums for
companies investing in new manufacturing or environmental technologies and
tax credits for those who invest in workplace training.

Jay Meyers, president of the manufacturers association, also called on the
government not to discriminate against the oil sands as it weighs future
legislation. Industry has been especially concerned about the impact of
new environmental rules, particularly regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

“The biggest challenge is to ensure that we don’t tie ourselves up in
regulations and policies that impede the progress that the industry is
making,” he said.

Environmental groups, however, questioned the good the oil sands have done
for the country – and pointed to the difficulties they have created for
Canada’s bid to lower carbon emissions.

“There are some serious environmental challenges that the federal
government needs to get involved in,” said Simon Dyer, oil sands program
director with the Pembina Institute.

But Mr. Ferguson argued that it’s unfair to point the finger at the oil

“The biggest culprit relating to emissions is the end user, the
automobile,” he said. “It’s not in the production of the product.”


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