Commentary: No industry better positioned to get people back to work than energy

As Canada looks to rebuild economy battered by COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector can and will lead the way

By Tom Olsen
Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday June 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

As the fight against this unprecedented global pandemic continues, a renewed focus on delivering a realistic plan that will support Canada’s economic recovery has never been more important.

Canada has worked hard to contain the spread of COVID-19. This is a credit to the leadership our Public Health Officers across Canada have provided and the resilience and commitment made by all our front-line workers since the pandemic emerged. They all deserve our thanks and gratitude.

On top of health implications, the economic fallout of shutting down much of our economy has been devastating. An estimated three million jobs were lost by April and the unemployment rate is expected to reach almost 10 per cent by the end of this year; all leading to an historic federal government deficit estimated to be $343 billion.

No industry is better positioned than energy to play a foundational role in getting people back to work and helping pay for the services on which families rely. We know how important the sector is to our national prosperity. Energy has put billions of dollars into vital social programs such as healthcare and education right across Canada. As we’ve worked, Canada has prospered, and we have accomplished all of this with growing strong partnerships with Indigenous communities and improving environmental performance.

The jobs and economic benefits created by the energy sector are massive. Between 2000 and 2018, the industry contributed $359 billion to federal and provincial budgets. These are dollars that go back into our healthcare, schools, environmental programs and other essential services.

Canada’s oil and gas sector alone supports more than 500,000 jobs across Canada in direct and related industries. And for each person working directly in oil and gas, five more jobs are supported somewhere else in Canada. Whether you are in Vancouver, Moose Jaw, Toronto, Montreal or Halifax, there is a good chance the energy sector is impacting your livelihood.

As examples, you need look no further than the thousands of well-paying jobs being created on the three large-scale pipeline projects under construction right now. Not only will the Trans Mountain expansion, Keystone XL and Coastal GasLink pipelines provide much-needed access to international markets for our valuable resources – which benefits all Canadians – these projects are putting people to work and giving a much needed boost to local businesses and communities.

Construction contractors for TC Energy install a section of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline at the U.S.-Canada border north of Glasgow, Mont. in April 2020. Photograph courtesy TC Energy

Canada works to high Environmental, Social and Governance standards. Some jurisdictions with lower standards are flourishing in the global energy market while Canada continues to debate the value of the sector at home. This debate, often not grounded in the facts, is hurting our prosperity. Canadians deserve better.

Canadian energy is good for Canada and good for the world. We know world demand for our energy is increasing and with our world-leading commitment to human rights, labour rights and the environment, Canada can be, and should be, the supplier of choice to meet  this demand.

It’s time to start talking openly and honestly about our energy sector. We know climate change is real. That is why our energy sector has played a leading role in investment in renewable energy and clean technology innovation. There is always more to be done, but let’s do it together.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast should be proud of their energy sector and its contribution to Canada and the world.

The facts have always been on our side – when we work, Canada works.