MLA Mark Smith. (File photo)

MLA Mark Smith. (File photo)

MLA Mark Smith: Alberta’s energy development

Opinion column from MLA Mark Smith- Drayton Valley-Devon

The public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns confirms that hundreds of millions of foreign dollars were used to block our province’s oil and gas development, directly impacting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans.

The Allan Inquiry report clearly shows that there were sophisticated, well-financed and coordinated campaigns that targeted our oil and gas sector in an attempt to frustrate or delay development.

The organizations behind these campaigns and their funders have intentionally hurt our province’s oil and gas sector, and Albertans whose livelihoods depend on its continued success. As the owners of the resources, Albertans deserve to know what happened and we have a right to be upset.

Between 2003 and 2019, total foreign funding of Canadian-based environmental initiatives was $1.28 billion, a figure the commissioner estimates is likely significantly understated. He also found that proponents for these campaigns celebrated cancelled and vetoed projects and have taken credit for more than 1,000 divestments made by finance and insurance companies. Furthermore, we can directly tie $54 million that entered Alberta for the sole purpose of opposing oilsands development – and, as the commissioner says, it’s likely the actual figure is much higher.

While these interrupters celebrated and boasted their success as pipelines were blocked and projects were abandoned, real people were hurt. Albertans lost jobs, businesses went under and families were hurt. Government revenues from royalties were also impacted. We lost billions of dollars in royalties and we saw pipeline bottlenecks that led to heavy price discounts and curtailment. While foreign jurisdictions were able to build infrastructure and ramp-up production, our projects have been deliberately blocked.

We are in a global energy crisis right now, where supply has lagged demand. Imagine where we could have been if we had market access to Asia and Europe? Imagine where we could have been if Northern Gateway was built? Energy East? Keystone XL? Instead, jurisdictions like Saudi Arabia and Russia have been given a strategic advantage. The illusion that these activities have reduced greenhouse gas emissions is false. Their activities have resulted in a simple transfer of wealth, with zero impact on emissions. Every molecule left in the ground here has been taken out of the ground by others with lower environmental standards and regulations.

Alberta has a proud history of displaying balance by being a world leader in responsible resource development. We have invested billions in viable technologies that reduce or eliminate emissions like carbon capture and storage. And we have a strong regulatory framework that balances both the environment and the economy.

We can learn from the tactics of the foreign-funded campaigns. Those campaigns will no doubt set their sights on other emerging areas in the energy sector, whether that’s hydrogen, critical and rare earth minerals or Liquified Natural Gas. We need to ensure they do not target and frustrate the development of the energy resources of the future – the things that are needed to reduce emissions and set Alberta up to diversify and be competitive in a world that is moving towards lower carbon emissions.

Alberta’s government remains committed to responsible energy development, which involves adhering to strict environmental standards while also pursuing important economic opportunities.

— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon