After touring an oilsands project in northern Alberta Friday, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she appreciated the opportunity to learn, even though the trip didn’t fully change her opinions.
Helps visited Cenovus’ steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project at Foster Creek near Fort McMurray at the request of Calgary city council and resource industry advocacy group Canada Action, whose founder, Cody Battershill, joined the mayor and Coun. Jeff Davison on the trip.
Back in Calgary Friday night, Helps said it was “too soon for me to say” whether the tour had impacted her views on the oilsands and the resource industry.
WATCH: (Aired April 26) Victoria mayor Lisa Helps to travel to Alberta oilsands
“But I believe in the work that’s happening here and that I saw today,” the mayor quickly added. “If the oilsands are going to have a future, what I saw today really lends itself well.”
SAGD is a method of drilling to extract oil that’s too deep below ground to mine. Canada Action said the technique is used in 97 per cent of the oilsands land area, as well as for 80 per cent of reserves and about half of current production.
Helps said she was impressed about the level of pride the staff took in the project, and was happy she took the trip to expand her perspective on the oilsands and share that with her fellow councillors in Victoria.
“I feel like I’ve come and looked at a different paradigm,” she said. “It’s a paradigm that oil and gas extraction is going to happen for the next 50 years at least, there’s long-term investments in this industry.
“I live in another paradigm where there’s a desire to phase off of fossil fuels in the next 20 to 30 years and to move to a zero-carbon prosperity. Those are two different paradigms, but at least now I have a foot in both and understand both.”
Helps was invited to tour the oilsands by Calgary city councillor Ward Sutherland after Victoria council endorsed a class action lawsuit against Alberta-based oil and gas companies and asked city staff to track costs related to climate change.
That lawsuit has yet to go forward after the Union of B.C. Municipalities failed to pass the resolution supported by council.
The mayor has also been a vocal opponent of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the increased tanker traffic the expansion would bring to B.C.’s coast.
Sutherland’s fellow councillor Davison said he was thankful Helps approached the trip with an open mind.
“We got together and we had a conversation,” he said. “That’s how you move forward and that’s how we plan for generations to come and what the energy sector will look like.”