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Alberta

Qatar, Norway and ‘The Trouble with Canada’

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7 minute read

From the Canadian Energy Centre Ltd 

By David Yager

Resource developers in Canada face unique geographical, jurisdictional, regulatory and political obstacles

That Germany has given up on Canada to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) and instead signed a massive multi-year LNG purchase agreement with Qatar has left many angry and disappointed.  

Investment manager and perennial oil bull Eric Nuttall recently visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia and wrote an opinion piece for the Financial Post titled, “Canada could be as green and wealthy as Qatar and Saudi Arabia if government wakes up – Instead of vilifying the oil and gas sectors, Canada should champion them.” 

Nuttall described how Saudi Arabia and Qatar are investing their enormous energy wealth to make life better for their citizens. This includes decarbonizing future domestic energy supplies and making large investments in infrastructure.   

Nuttall concludes, “Why is it that Qatar, a country that embraced its LNG industry, has nearly three times the number of doctors per capita than Canada? We can do it all: increase our oil and natural gas production, at the highest environmental standards anywhere in the world, thereby allowing us to help meet the world’s needs while benefiting from its revenue and allowing for critical incremental investments in our national infrastructure…This could have been us.” 

The country most often mentioned that Albertans should emulate is Norway. 

Alberta’s Heritage Savings and Trust Fund has been stuck below $20 billion since it was created by Premier Peter Lougheed in 1976.  

Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, which started 20 years later in 1996, now sits at US$1.2 trillion. 

How many times have you been told that if Alberta’s politicians weren’t so incompetent, our province would have a much larger nest egg after 47 years?  

After all, Canada and Alberta have gobs of natural gas and oil, just like Qatar and Norway. 

Regrettably, that’s all we have in common.  

That Qatar and Norway’s massive hydrocarbon assets are offshore is a massive advantage that producers in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin will never enjoy. All pipelines are submerged. There are no surface access problems on private property, no municipal property taxes or surface rights payments, and there are no issues with First Nations regarding land claims, treaty rights and constitutional guarantees. 

Being on tidewater is a huge advantage when it comes to market access, greatly reducing operating and transportation costs. 

But it’s more complicated than that, and has been for a long time. In 1990, Olympic athlete and businessman William G. Gairdner wrote a book titled, “The Trouble with Canada – A Citizen Speaks Out.” It takes Gairdner 450 pages to explain how one of the most unique places in the world in terms of resource wealth and personal and economic opportunity was fading fast. 

That was 33 years ago. Nothing has improved. 

As I wrote in my own book about the early days of settlement and development, citizens expected little from their governments and got less. 

Today politics increasingly involves which party will give the most voters the most money.  

The book’s inside front cover reads how Gairdner was concerned that Canada was already “caught between two irreconcilable styles of government, a ‘top down’ collectivism and a ‘bottoms-up individualism;’ he shows how Canadian society has been corrupted by a dangerous love affair with the former.”  

Everything from the constitution to official bilingualism to public health care were identified as the symptoms of a country heading in the wrong direction. 

But Canadian “civil society” often regards these as accomplishments. 

The constitution enshrines a federal structure that ignores representation by population in the Senate thus leaving the underpopulated regions vulnerable to the political desires of central Canada. This prohibited Alberta’s closest access to tidewater for oil through Bill C48. 

Official bilingualism and French cultural protection has morphed into Quebec intentionally blocking Atlantic tidewater access for western Canadian oil and gas.  

In the same country! 

Another election will soon be fought in Alberta over sustaining a mediocre public health care system that continues to slide in international rankings of cost and accessibility. 

What’s remarkable about comparing Canada to Norway or Qatar for missed hydrocarbon export opportunities is how many are convinced that the Canadian way of doing things is equal, if not superior, to that of other countries. 

But neither Norway or Qatar have the geographical, jurisdictional, regulatory and political obstacles that impair resource development in Canada. 

Norway has over 1,000 years of history shared by a relatively homogenous population with similar views on many issues. Norway has a clear sense of its national identity. 

As a country, Canada has only 156 years in its current form and is comprised of Indigenous people and newcomers from all over the world who are still getting to know each other.  

In the endless pursuit of politeness, today’s Canada recognizes multiple nations within its borders.  

Norway and Qatar only have one. 

While relatively new as a country, Qatar is ruled by a “semi-constitutional” monarchy where the major decisions about economic development are made by a handful of people.  

Canada has three layers of elected governments – federal, provincial and municipal – that have turned jurisdictional disputes, excessive regulation, and transferring more of everything to the public sector into an industry.  

Regrettably, saying that Canada should be more like Norway or Qatar without understanding why it can’t be deflects attention away from our challenges and solutions. 

David Yager is an oilfield service executive, oil and gas writer, and energy policy analyst. He is author of  From Miracle to Menace – Alberta, A Carbon Story. 

 

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Alberta

TDF funds defence of the “Coutts Three”

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The “Coutts Three,” Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen

News release from The Democracy Fund

A jury trial is expected to proceed after pretrial applications.

LETHBRIDGE: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is funding the defence of three men charged with mischief in Lethbridge, Alberta. The men, known as the “Coutts Three,” are Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen. All three are alleged to have been leaders of the 17-day trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions that shut down the Coutts border in February 2022.

The matter is expected to proceed to a jury trial after pretrial applications are heard over the next few days. Jury trials are only available for serious criminal matters where the accused faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or more.

The men should not be confused with the “Coutts Four,” who were among the twelve persons arrested in connection to an RCMP raid that resulted in the seizure of weapons and the end of the protest. According to Van Huigenbos, the message of the Coutts protesters “had been lost” following the arrests and the border blockade was voluntarily dismantled.

Donations for the three men can be made on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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Alberta

Taking wildfire operations to new heights

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Drone and helicopter testing being performed by Alberta Wildfire personnel. Photo Credit: Alberta Wildfire

Budget 2024 enables Alberta to make use of leading-edge technologies to prevent and respond to wildfires.

As Alberta heads into wildfire season, many areas of the province are experiencing heightened wildfire risk. Alberta’s government continues to prioritize new technologies and tactics that will enhance front-line response and suppression efforts.

Budget 2024 will invest an additional $151 million over the next three years for wildfire preparedness, prevention, response and mitigation. This additional funding will enhance wildland firefighting capacity with increased wildfire resources such as personnel, aircraft, drones, artificial intelligence (AI) and night-vision technology.

“Alberta’s government is well prepared for the 2024 wildfire season. We have emerging technologies that will enable us to better protect forests and communities while continuing to prioritize proactive measures that build wildfire resilience throughout the province.”

Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks

Aerial operations are integral to firefighting efforts and increased funding will enable the province to add two additional long-term helicopter contracts, two new air tanker contracts and additional drones for aerial wildfire surveillance. Budget 2024 will also support the renewal of 130 helicopter contracts by April 1.

“We live in a time where we have access to incredible technologies and last year, we recognized some great successes from various firefighting technology pilot programs. I can say with confidence that the additional night-vision equipped helicopters and drones will make a big difference in our wildfire mitigation and response efforts this year.”

Bernie Schmitte, executive director, Alberta Wildfire

Alberta Wildfire will continue to explore, research and test new developments in wildfire prevention, mitigation, smoke detection and suppression to assess how innovative technologies can support a rapid response and help extinguish wildfires. Wildfire management best practices are always evolving, and Alberta’s government is working to stay ahead of the curve.

For future wildfire seasons, the government is exploring options to potentially expand the province’s air tanker fleet and pilot more emerging firefighting technologies.

Quick facts

  • Night-vision goggles amplify light 60,000 times and allow helicopter pilots to work overnight and conduct activities like bucketing operations.
  • Wildfire suppression efforts are more likely to be successful at night, as temperatures are usually lower, humidity is typically higher and wildfires are less active.
  • Alberta has been successfully using an AI wildfire occurrence prediction system since 2022 to identify areas where wildfires are likely to occur.
  • Budget 2024 also includes hiring 100 new firefighters, which will result in five additional 20-person crews.
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