FORGET WINE — BOYCOTT B.C.’S OILPATCH SUPPLIERS
Alberta’s wine boycott is economically puny. It threatens to deprive B.C. companies of only $70 million, compared to $1.5 billion a year denied to Alberta by the B.C. government’s stalling.
How about a boycott that really stings? Alex Macdonald, once the top aide to the late Alberta Liberal leader Laurence Decore, has an idea that could make B.C. Premier John Horgan collapse in a faint.
Oilsands companies, Macdonald says, should stop buying supplies and services from firms in British Columbia.
Now, that would hurt. There are 738 such suppliers in B.C. They bill oilsands outfits for $1.3 billion a year, according to figures updated to early 2017 by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. More than 400 companies in Fort St. John send their bills to Alberta. There are 141 suppliers in Vancouver and even, if you can believe it, 78 in Burnaby, the terminus city and heart of pipeline resistance.
CAPP said in early 2017: “B.C. companies provide environmental technology, engineering equipment services, camps and catering, parts supply, corporate services, technology and transportation, and others.”
CAPP CEO Tim McMillan added then that “British Columbia is (a) leading partner in Canada’s oilsands — a partnership that creates jobs and prosperity to support communities across B.C.” He said more pipeline capacity via Kinder Morgan’s expansion would “create even more jobs and prosperity for communities across British Columbia.”
If Horgan has his way, that will never happen. So, maybe the payments from Alberta shouldn’t happen either.
A commercial boycott like this wouldn’t depend on the Alberta government to implement. It would impact the industry in question, not bystanders like wineries. Nor would it violate trade agreements. Companies can buy, or not buy, wherever they like in Canada.
Why not send that B.C. work to Saskatchewan or even Ontario? Or simply create more supply capacity in Alberta?
CAPP staff told me Thursday that McMillan wouldn’t answer questions about a possible shift of oilsands spending to other provinces.
It’s no surprise. On Wednesday, McMillan said the industry doesn’t want more “politicization” because that ends up hurting business. He counts on governments to sort all this out.
But Macdonald made the boycott suggestion precisely because he’s annoyed at oilsands producers for failing to step up.
He calls the companies wimpy and PR-challenged. The industry “should threaten to find alternate suppliers. That’ll get Horgan’s attention!”
For the past decade, Alberta premiers and the producers have tried countless times to make Canadians aware of the incredible spending generated all over Canada by the oilsands.
Last year, for instance, $7.6 billion in national spending was spread across every province, all the way to little P.E.I.
Six P.E.I. suppliers were paid $6.4 million. That’s not negligible in a province of 152,000 people.
Ontario is by far the largest beneficiary outside Alberta itself, with 1,570 companies providing $3.9 billion worth of goods and services. In Quebec, 385 companies billed for $1.2 billion. Fortyfive suppliers in Newfoundland and Labrador made $333 million. Oilsands firms paid $479 million to 460 companies in Saskatchewan.
There’s never been much evidence that repeating those statistics changed minds among politicians or the general public.
Quebec rose up against Energy East despite the oilsands bonanza for companies there. The B.C. NDP seems wilfully blind to anything except environmental alarmism.
Telling people what they’ve already got just puts them to sleep. But they wake up fast when it’s being taken away.
If oilsands producers suddenly started shifting their supply contracts elsewhere, B.C. would be in an uproar. Even John Horgan would have to count the cost.
The industry “should threaten to find alternate suppliers. That’ll get Horgan’s attention!”