Laugh­ing Mat­ters

Co­me­dian and Cana­dian En­ergy Pipe­line As­so­ci­a­tion man­ager Evan Wil­son doesn’t leave his comic chops at the stage door. He ex­plains why they’re a good fit for the board­room, too

Alberta Oil - - OBSERVER - –By Wil­low White

EVAN WIL­SON MAY SPEND HIS EVENINGS WRIT­ING com­edy sketches and cre­at­ing one of Cal­gary’s hippest mu­sic fes­ti­vals, but dur­ing the day he shapes the think­ing around one of the most per­ti­nent is­sues fac­ing Canada to­day, pipe­lines. His day job is with the Cana­dian En­ergy Pipe­line As­so­ci­a­tion (CEPA), where he’s the reg­u­la­tory and fi­nan­cial man­ager.

While Wil­son works in an of­fice of only 20 peo­ple, the work he does on a day-to-day ba­sis af­fects thou­sands of Cana­di­ans and com­mu­ni­ties from coast to coast. Al­to­gether, CEPA mem­ber com­pa­nies trans­port 97 per­cent of Canada’s nat­u­ral gas and on­shore crude oil, and it’s Wil­son’s job to fa­cil­i­tate fruit­ful con­ver­sa­tion be­tween mem­bers, the govern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties. Mak­ing all of th­ese groups happy is no easy task, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Wil­son is some­thing of an ex­pert on hap­pi­ness.

Wil­son grew up in Syd­ney, Nova Sco­tia, and, like many Mar­itimers, af­ter high school he headed west, even­tu­ally end­ing up in Al­berta to com­plete a Mas­ter’s de­gree in political sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary. Wil­son says he quickly de­cided that he was “in­ter­ested in the en­ergy of Cal­gary,” and chose to stay, land­ing the job at CEPA and mak­ing Cow­town his adopted home. “There’s this whole joke,” says Wil­son, “that while liv­ing in Cal­gary you never ac­tu­ally meet an ac­tual Cal­gar­ian.” Feel­ing some­what dis­con­nected and adrift, Wil­son says he de­cided to get in­volved in some com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and com­edy was one of them. He is now the com­edy co-or­di­na­tor for the Sled Is­land fes­ti­val, he’s on the board of De­cid­edly Jazz Dance­works and he’s a writer and ac­tor for the Telus Op­tik TV show, COW­TOWN.

His arts and cul­ture out­lets al­low Wil­son to stay bal­anced and re­main both diplo­matic and con­nected at work, he says. “There is a fun out­look here [in Cal­gary] that com­pli­ments the work that I do at CEPA.” Typ­i­cally, his day in­volves co-or­di­nat­ing talks be­tween pipe­line com­pa­nies and groups con­cerned with five key pol­icy ar­eas: abo­rig­i­nal affairs, en­vi­ron­ment, land is­sues, prop­erty tax and reg­u­la­tory pol­icy. As if co-or­di­nat­ing the cho­rus of dif­fer­ent voices within each of th­ese is­sues wasn’t enough, at the end of the day, it’s of­ten Wil­son’s job to find com­mon ground be­tween all par­ties and all in­ter­ests on a sin­gle pro­ject.

“There is a re­ally in­ter­per­sonal as­pect and a re­ally strate­gic as­pect that comes out in how we get all of th­ese com­pa­nies that, in the mar­ket­place, are com­peti­tors, to agree on what com­mon in­ter­ests they have,” Wil­son says. Con­se­quently, ev­ery­one who works at CEPA, in­clud­ing Wil­son, has to be a bit of a jack-of-all­trades. “Ev­ery­one here has to be com­fort­able with a broad range of pol­icy is­sues and with hav­ing all of th­ese mem­ber com­pa­nies work to­gether and re­al­ize that there is a real im­pact com­ing from the work we do,” he says. “Pipe­lines are un­der the mi­cro­scope and [on] the front pages of the busi­ness sec­tion – if not the news­pa­per – ev­ery sin­gle day.”

As the U.S.’s re­jec­tion of Tran­sCanada’s Keystone XL pipe­line high­lights, build­ing Cana­dian pipe­lines has never been more con­tentious. But with projects like En­ergy East, North­ern Gate­way and Trans Moun­tain still be­ing pur­sued, the de­bate isn’t likely to mel­low any­time soon. In the mean­time, Wil­son con­tin­ues to bring peo­ple to­gether, find so­lu­tions and even find hap­pi­ness where pos­si­ble, day and night. “I work to put to­gether a po­si­tion that ev­ery­one can be happy with.”

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