Energy Experts Share Their Respective Messages To Canada’s Prime Minister

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Gary Mar (left) moderated a panel at the World Petroleum Congress.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not attended the 2023 World Petroleum Congress in Calgary, members of a panel discussion shared what they would say to him if he was at the event.

Canada West Foundation CEO Gary Mar, a former Alberta MLA, moderated a panel including Kevin Krausert, CEO and co-founder, Avatar Innovations Inc.; Byron Neiles, executive vice-president, chief administrative officer, Enbridge Inc.; Drew Zieglgansberger, executive vice-president chief commercial officer, Cenovus Energy Inc.; and Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO, Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Mar proposed a “thought exercise,” asking panel members to assume the prime minister was sitting at a table in front of them and asked what message they’d convey.

Zieglgansberger’s answer wasn’t hypothetical. Last November, he was at the 2022 G20 Bali Summit with a group of Canadians, including the prime minister.

“We had an opportunity to have a conversation — a group of about eight of us, following our couple day meeting at the G20,” Zieglgansberger said, noting, for context, the Russia/Ukraine conflict occurring at that time.

At the summit, there were meetings with several national business councils.  

“The thing I said to the prime minister was ‘it’s interesting, [needs] that the world has … Canada has an abundance in food, fertilizer and fuel,” said Zieglgansberger.

“We can produce more of those three things than we’ll ever consume just because of our current population density and … the land base we’ve got,” he added.

“So, the opportunity is lying there, but I think the single biggest ask I would have of the prime minister, and I said this to him: ‘let’s make sure we can take what we’re good at and the abundance of what we can share and get it out to them. Our ability to export and have market access for our food, our fertilizer and our fuel can absolutely deliver on the promise … we can help others in need.

“The message to our prime minister is: allow us to share our expertise and our ability with the world.”

Neiles would look for a reality check on the pace of progress, including what can be achieved and at what point, along with policy and tax alignment. He would also seek an “embrace” from both the prime minister and the Canadian government on LNG exports.

“We know very clearly that we stand ready to help the world, whether it's Asia or eastern Europe, to displace far more emitting coal plants and other types of energy.”

He added that there’s a need to get behind LNG exports “so that we can address the energy needs of our global allies but at the same time build an incredible industry, prosperity for Indigenous peoples, and create important revenue for social services, medical systems, education and the like.”

Yedlin wants the leader of Canada to see the central role the energy industry can play in a lower carbon future.

“The message to the prime minister would be that Canada’s energy sector has been a leader in terms of how it has de-risked and developed resources, coming on how many years — a hundred?” she said. “The road to decarbonization, decreasing emissions actually goes through the energy sector because it is the sector that invests the most in R&D and has been doing that for a [long time].

Furthermore, Yedlin added, “[The energy sector] is also the largest employer of Indigenous communities and Indigenous peoples in this country.

“It’s also all the mining companies, and all the critical minerals that we will be mining. We have to find a way to partner … to make sure that we develop our resources, that we have the right policy levers that enable us to do that, and that we can continue to produce the resource bounty that we have been endowed with. It’s about decreasing carbon and we know how to do that, and we are working on it.”

Krausert’s message was related to innovation.

“The only way we are going to win this is through technology innovation at a pace that we need to run at,” he said. “Canada is spending, of the G20, the highest per capita government spend of R&D, and we have the lowest innovation index as an industry. We need an overhaul of our innovation systems to inspire the entrepreneurs. Industry is ready, we just need to figure out the right product market fit, if you will.”

Yedlin extended this point, saying there needs to be policy that outlives an election cycle.

She added, “Make sure the policy levers that are in place outlive the government in power so we can provide the certainty for companies to risk capital, invest and do what they know they can do.

“If there is a risk that policies could change, then we are not going to get as far as we need to,” continued Yedlin. “We are basically creating a new industry and we need certainty from a policy standpoint in order to drive forward risk capital — there can’t be any uncertainty.”

To this, Mar suggested the term durable policy. The moderator then named things needed in this space, including technology, durable public policy, and financing of new technologies, and asked for letter grades from panel participants on these areas.

One panelist gave existing technology a B+ while the other participants agreed on B, and on durable public policy, grades ranged from D- to F. For financing of these technologies, grades ranged from B+ to C.

“The instruments have been provided for in budgets, but the money is not flowing in all respects,” said Neiles of financing.  

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