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
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.”