Cyr: We Need to Invest in Oilsands, not Phase them Out

Scott Cyr responds to Trudeau’s call to phase out oilsands

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched a direct assault on Alberta’s oilsands, calling for one of Canada’s greatest enterprises to be “phased out.” The controversial remarks cut directly to the core of a strained relationship between the West and the federal government.


The Prime Minister’s statement was no slip of the tongue. Rather it is a total reversal of federal policy, breaking the faith with labour, public and private investors, and every single Canadian – all of whom benefit from the development of Alberta’s most valuable and abundant natural resource.


Sadly, it is also a betrayal of the aspirations of generations of political leaders, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. The history of the oilsands is intrinsically linked to the expansion and progress of our country.


Early explorers like Alexander Mackenzie certainly took note of the bitumen along banks of the mighty Athabasca River. Canada’s greatest Prime Ministers, people like Sir. John A. Macdonald and Sir. Wilfrid Laurier, understood the importance of harnessing the power of such resources, and made opening the West a top priority.


Just 16 years after Laurier oversaw the founding of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the true potential of the oilsands became apparent, thanks to the work of a chemist from Georgetown, Ontario.


Dr. Karl Clark, who joined the Alberta Scientific and Industrial Research Council in 1921, dedicated much of his life to perfecting a process to convert bitumen to commercial-grade crude. By the 1950s, his efforts proved instrumental in the founding of the first pilot plant at Bitumount, Alberta.


In 1967, under Premier Ernest Manning, Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. opened its first plant near Fort McMurray. The company, a forerunner of Suncor, persevered through numerous booms and busts and remains active in the oilsands today.


Over the years Alberta’s oilsands have provided hundreds of billions in taxes and resource royalties, not to mention quality, full-time jobs. With a supply chain that reaches from coast-to-coast, every region of our vast and diverse country directly contributes to the success of this project.


The importance of these benefits was not lost on successive federal governments, including the Liberal administration of Jean Chrétien, which provided tax breaks to ensure the survival of the industry through difficult times. Chrétien’s oilsands gamble, like so many before it, paid off big-time. Prior to the oil price crash of 2014, various products from Alberta’s oilsands became one of Canada’s leading exports.


Justin Trudeau’s about-face on the oilsands displays an incredible lack of understanding about both Alberta and Canada. The implications of his imprudent blunderings reach far beyond his short-sighted intentions. They are an affront to Albertans, a crushing blow to investor confidence, and a signal to workers across Canada that their jobs don’t matter.


Perhaps worst of all, Trudeau is intentionally undermining a truly national undertaking.


Our greatest leaders always understood that Canada is more than a place; it is an idea. It is the promise that we can always overcome our regional, ethnic, and political differences when we find common cause in our greatest works.


Macdonald and Laurier understood this. So did Mulroney, Chrétien, and Harper.


Justin Trudeau doesn’t get it. Or worse, he doesn’t care.


Who will defend our province, our workers, and our shared history as Canadians, in the face of such blatant disregard?


Brian Jean, myself and the Wildrose Party have all made it clear: We will.