The energy sector in Canada is often covered in a very polarized manner. Environmentalists versus industry, east versus west, Conservative versus Liberal, Indigenous versus government.
The reality, though, is that forging a path in these challenging times will require leadership and collaboration from all stakeholders. In other words, everyone should want Canada to be a global leader in energy.
For Canada’s energy industry, this leadership position is a business imperative. In Alberta, the oil and gas industry has tried to stay ahead of the game by employing new technologies to reduce emissions from its operations, says Vivek Warrier of Bennett Jones LLP (The Oil Sector's Tough Year). “There’s been a massive emphasis on environmental performances and making sure that any environmental impacts are mitigated.”
Alicia Quesnel at Burnet Duckworth & Palmer LLP (The Oil Sector's Tough Year) sees an opportunity for Canada to provide a clean product to China, India and southeast Asia. “We really need to get the message out that that’s where we need to go first,” she says.
For environmentalists, investing in renewables is clearly a priority. Yet, in Alberta, even though the Conservative government scrapped the Renewable Electricity Program, there is a growth in purchase price allocation agreements where businesses agree to procure renewable energy from generators (Renewables will Stay Strong).
Environmental legislation has also varied radically across the country, but all regimes are creating change. “If we're looking at quantifying greenhouse gas impacts for projects, that'll force companies to propose new technologies, new mitigations — whether it's carbon sinks or electrification or what have you — all of that will drive innovation,” says Sam Adkins at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP (Changing Climes, Changing Times).
Finally, the requirement for Indigenous consultation is becoming clearer as case law evolves. “The courts have emphasized that the standards on both proponents and governments are, quite properly, very high,” says Keith Bergner of Lawson Lundell LLP (Achieving True Consultation). “But it's also become clear through various court decisions that the standard is not an unachievable one.”
While there are disagreements and varying approaches to regulating and investing in Canada’s energy sector, all the stakeholders should agree that Canada must be a global leader in this space. Our future will depend on it.