This article originally appeared in the National Post.
By Chris Sankey, December 20, 2023
Over the last eight years we have experienced an unprecedented push from environmental activists to phase out fossil fuels. The Government of Canada seems to think it is possible. During question period in the Senate earlier this year, Sen. David Wells noted that, according to the Liberals, the energy transition “will cost $100-$125 billion per year at least to 2050,” and asked “When Canada only emits 1.5 per cent of global emissions, how does this expenditure make sense?”
Let me repeat that. $125 billion each year.
Who is going to pay for this? This is simply not possible, unless people want to see the Canadian economy in ruins.
Without fossil fuels, life as we know it would not be possible. State-of-the-art lifesaving medical equipment comes from fossil fuels and critical minerals from mining. Critical infrastructure, vehicles, planes, trains, container ships, ferries, and the billions of household necessities we buy from Canadian Tire, Walmart, Amazon and Ikea come from fossil fuels and help us function in our everyday lives. Without these needs we simply do not prosper.
Take for instance the environmental marches we see on our streets. The protesters seemingly have zero understanding of what makes their marches possible? Yes, fossil fuels. If you are going to protest for “Just Stop Oil,” then climate activists have to stop blocking traffic, because an idling vehicle is so much harder on the environment. And what about showing up in clothing and holding up signs made of hydrocarbons demonstrates your commitment to saving the planet? Hypocrisy? Absolutely.
From the moment we come out of our mother’s body, fossil fuels make our lives better. From cradle to grave, our lives are intertwined with fossil fuels. Just think of the act of giving birth. Chances are the mother was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, helicopter, plane, your personal vehicle, or taxi. As grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins arrive at the hospital in their fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks smiling ear to ear welcoming the new baby to the family. They show up with gifts likely made from fossil fuels and critical minerals. If it is not made from fossil fuels, they were most definitely transported to the store using fossil fuels.
It is time we stop kidding ourselves that we can step away from the oil and gas wealth upon which our country benefits so much.
Only now, it will be Indigenous communities who are going to lead the multi-billion-dollar opportunity and put Canada at the front of global markets as a preferred supplier. For far too long, activist’s voice have been the determining factor in how governments make decisions on this necessary industry in our territories.
We need to make sure we have a framework that lays out a technology transition where we produce cleaner oil and gas by using new technology that will reduce emissions and grow our economies.
Since the Liberals were elected in 2015 everywhere we turn, our resource sector is being badly hurt. Forestry, fishing, oil and gas are screaming for more production, but federal regulations threaten to not only destroy the energy industry, but all industries with the emissions cap. Renewables are costing taxpayers billions in subsidies and it will not end there.
Indigenous people have always took care of the environment and grown our economies. From fishing, logging, farming and hunting, we used fossil fuels to make it happen.
Obviously, humans did not use fossil fuels prior to the industrial revolution and indigenous people made hunting weapons out of wood and stone. Life was challenging for our ancestors back then; life expectancy was short for all people.
Over time, technology in the energy sector changed for the better. I would be remiss if I did not include the fact that industry did not always have modern clean tech; emissions were high and cancer-causing effects were widespread. That introduced chemicals foreign to indigenous people. Like all things, newer and safer technology emerged. Making life much easier and convenient.
However, historically speaking indigenous people lived on fat and protein. Everything we ate was natural. Like all things that come and go, European contact forever changed our way of life. We were greatly impacted in every possible manner, from social, cultural, status and creed. But like we always have, we persevered like our ancestors wanted us too.
This is our turn to take our rightful place on the global stage. We are watching it play out in real time around the world. Energy and food security is the number one priority around the world. Indigenous communities near and far are leading the way in the pursuit of sustainable development, but government and activists are hindering our ability to progress.
It is important that Canadians be realistic when it comes to the use of oil and gas. All of us want to leave our planet better for the next generation. To do so, we must manage expectations. Many countries are just now finally transitioning to oil and gas from more environmentally harmful coal and countries like India will not be carbon neutral until 2070 or later.
Our country has an abundance of resources that the world wants. They are literally knocking on our door to get access to our wealth. We can help countries like China, India and Indonesia move away from burning coal and wood, and thereby help lift millions out of certain poverty, and improve their health.
New climate change technology has emerged in the energy sector, such as carbon capture and storage that will reduce and eliminate emissions and the need for diluent in oil pipelines. Our combination of Indigenous knowledge and history to the land makes for a stronger argument to partner with Indigenous communities. Alignment amongst indigenous communities is key to securing a project. Proper alignment will de-risk a project and attract investment and industry to the table where we will have a seat and even equity.
Engagement with Indigenous communities is the solution. The vast majority of our people are not against development. We are only against development when we are excluded from the opportunities, or if the evaluation process was developed without Indigenous input.
It is not rocket-science. Include the people whose territory you want to build on. This is an opportunity to build relationships through meaningful dialogue and trust. We must have nation to nation dialogue and build leadership to leadership relationships. No hidden agendas, just up-front, honest conversations about oil and gas and the costs and benefits of development.
I am tired of watching our people struggle. Our people do not want to watch the prosperity boat sail by Poverty Island. Markets do not wait for anyone. We cannot keep waiting for the right time. We cannot keep waiting for life to get better. First Nations can make it better by being at the economic table where our people can bring traditional knowledge to industry and make decisions in the best interests of our communities. Whether we agree or not in the first instance, we need to be in the room working towards a brighter future, because at the end of the day we all need rubber boots too.
Chris Sankey is a Senior fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute, a former Elected Councilor for the Lax Kw Alaams Band and Businessman.