By J.W. Schnarr
Southern Alberta Newspapers
More discussion is needed on the impact of the oil and gas industry at all levels, members of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce heard on Thursday.
Jeff Gaulin, VP of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was in Lethbridge Thursday to speak at the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce during a lunchtime event, highlighting the state of Canada’s oil and gas industry and the different discussions taking place across the country.
Highlights of the presentation included Canada’s urgent need for new infrastructure and the need for Canada to continue to innovate in the way it produces oil and gas.
Gaulin said Canadians are becoming more aware of issues surrounding oil and gas.
“Canadians are beginning to realize what’s good for the oil and gas industry means good prosperity and quality of life across Canada,” he said.
“I think we’re starting to see, across political lines, and across provincial lines, more conversation about how we can continue to grow oil and gas, and how we can grow new customers.”
Chamber president Melody Garner said it is important for chamber members to realize oil and gas woes affect all of Canada, and not just northern Alberta.
“Every single municipality is affected by the downturn in the oil and gas economy,” she said. “We all need to band together and start to look for a solution nationally.”
Garner said the chamber has the ability to connect with other chambers in municipalities across the country. She said the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce intends to reach out to a number of local municipalities to see what can be done.
Gaulin also spoke about the fact half the oil used in some eastern provinces is imported, and the Canadian national economy loses $17 billion annually to imports..
“Last year, in Canada, it cost the Canadian economy $17 billion to buy foreign oil,” he said. “We have the third most oil in the world. There’s something just not right about that.”
He said the world needs more energy, and Canada has a “tremendous” supply. He added he would like to see discussions on how to better manage and ship oil and gas across the globe to the benefit of Canada.
“I think there needs to be a national conversation about how this industry can grow,” he said. “
“Really, this is an energy source for the world, and for the longterm.”
With more than 70 southern Alberta businesses working directly with the oil and gas industry, Garner said the impact locally can not be understated.
“In southern Alberta, we always say we weather the storm better,” she said. “Which is true. We don’t rely solely on oil and gas, but it would not be prudent to say this doesn’t have any affect on us.”
Local residents have a role to play in being more aware of the impact of oil and gas beyond the obvious ones.
“Too many times, we think oil and gas is just the gas we put in our vehicle,” Garner said. “They don’t understand all of the implications, all of the products, everything we touch, to a degree, is affected by the oil and gas industry.”
She also said local residents should think about the millions in tax revenue generated by the industry.
“It provides money for schools, hospitals, social services. It’s a multiplier affect. Residents need to understand that oil and gas affects every aspect of our lives when you drill down to it.”
Changing attitudes about carbon pollution and climate change have caused the oil and gas conversation to change in recent years to include more discussion on alternative and green energy.
“We’ve added alternative energy into that conversation,” Garner said. “Because of the great place southern Alberta is with our wind, and solar, and bio-fuels, and stuff like that.”
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