Why Oil Respect Might Just Work

By Bill Whitelaw, CEO, JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group

Picture this: a stone tossed into a pond.

It creates on the water's surface an impact that displays as ever-widening circles radiating outward. Each successive concentric circle is wider than its predecessor.

It's a good metaphor for a Canadian economy increasingly stressed by the impacts of low commodity prices; each circle has its own identifiable characteristics of economic impairment. And the outer circle is now almost unimaginably large and it's dawning on ordinary Canadians that an energy sector in the tank does no one any good.

Now, in your mind's eye, replace the stone with a drill bit and imagine it tossed into the troubled waters that is the Canadian economy.

The drill bit is another useful metaphor: how many of them are turning, or not, in a very real way defines Canada's economic momentum. In the context of the bit-in-a-pond allusion, the concentric circle can be understood to represent impacts on Canadians as they ripple outward.

The drill bit is also usefully symbolic in that it represents Oil Respect, a timely and impactful awareness campaign launched last week by the companies whose bits hit the ground to produce the resource wealth that defines Canada.

The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) is the industry group representing Canada's drilling companies, large and small.

They're the firms whose rigs and personnel execute the development strategies on behalf of Canada's oil and gas companies.

They're also the companies whose staff members and share values are among the first in a complex and lengthy value chain to take it in the chin when industry activity slams to a halt.

Only a quarter of Canada's rigs are working.

Understandably, the drillers have had enough.

Hence Oil Respect.

There are many awareness campaigns out there. Almost too many in terms of potentially crossed signals. But Oil Respect goes to the real root of the problem: the reality that 100,000 Canadians are walking the unemployment lines as a consequence of low petroleum prices. Lives are in tatters. Dreams are broken. And it doesn't matter if the number is 98,000 or 105,000, the facts on the ground are real. 

Oil Respect is about those facts.

That people matter.

One of our industry's problems is that we tend to blame "other" ordinary Canadians; those who are not of the sector, for not understanding "how things really work."

Oil Respect aims to show sector workers are just as ordinary as anyone.

Such campaigns also aim at politicians, and while it's true most men and women in office are functionally illiterate when it comes to matters of energy, nothing to date has sufficiently politicized the industry's current distress to produce much beyond bromides and platitudes.

Oil Respect just might work. Those unemployed are voters. And so are their friends and families.

The other reality is we haven't done a terribly good job franchising our own remaining employees with the means to have a conversation with the friends and neighbours — those not of the sector — about how the sector hangs together and produces the economic benefits that Canadians enjoy. Their voices matter too.

That's why every senior leader, operating and service company alike, should get behind Oil Respect.

The drillers took a stance.

Let's put the industry's collective weight behind the program. Buy the T-shirts. Distribute the bumper stickers. Tell your staff to do the same. Tell them to tell their friends. And have their friends talk to their friends.

Go to http://www.oilrespect.ca/. Click the links. Put the links on your websites. Drive traffic. Take social media to those so fond of using it against the sector.

Sign the petition to have a day in February 2017 declared a day to recognize workers. Sign the second petition to push for pipeline support.

Make the difference.