Ottawa gives oil execs pep talk
OTTAWA — The federal minister of natural resources is privately urging oil and gas executives to get outside the boardroom and pitch projects to the public, boost spending on environmental research and work more closely with aboriginal groups to win the public relations battle over energy.
Greg Rickford spoke to a closed-door meeting of about 40 to 50 oil and gas executives in October — a speech that went through several drafts as bureaucrats worked to make it more “pointed on what is needed from industry,” prepared remarks and email documents obtained through an Access to Information request show.
In the private address, Rickford congratulated industry on its achievements and touted his government’s record, according to the prepared remarks.
He then called for industry to do more.
“You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence” and “our messages are not resonating,” Rickford told the annual strategy session of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry’s top lobby group, according to the prepared remarks.
The event was held Oct. 21 at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff. A transcript of Rickford’s final comments wasn’t included in the documents.
“Enhance and expand your outreach. Communicate more effectively and clearly to Canadians with solid facts and evidence,” Rickford said, according to the documents.
“Bottom line? We have to organize ourselves for success. And we have to do it together. Together. We can no longer look to others to do it for us.”
Rickford’s call hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. Asked about the speech, a CAPP spokeswoman said the industry is “embarking on a different level of engagement” to roll out a campaign aimed at drumming up support for the energy sector.
CAPP invited Rickford for a 20-minute speech, saying in a letter to him it would be “an excellent opportunity for informal engagement” with oil executives. The speech offered a chance to speak to Canada’s foremost energy figures away from TV cameras.
Rickford’s speech was attended by CAPP board members and oil and gas executives. The board included executives from Suncor Energy Inc., Enbridge Inc., Husky Energy Inc., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and other major companies, documents show.
The speech went through several drafts as bureaucrats worked to strengthen the language, documents show.
“Still not sure if messaging on what we need from industry is as strong as people are expecting. Any ideas on making more concrete/harder hitting,” Terence Hubbard, currently the director general of the department’s petroleum resources branch, wrote on Oct. 10.
Three days later, Hubbard sent around another draft, saying he reworded it to “be more pointed on what is needed from industry.”
A spokesman for Rickford declined to give details about the event.
In the final draft of the remarks — which the top bureaucrat in the department, Bob Hamilton, recommended Rickford “draw on” — executives were urged to “ramp up your engagement” with aboriginal communities.
The speech called for more environmental work, including research spending. “We must remain focused on ensuring operations remain safe,” it said. “We can’t afford any missteps. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”