August 1, 2019 10:00 am
Updated: August 1, 2019 9:26 pm

Canadian energy giants take out full-page newspaper ads as federal election looms

WATCH ABOVE: Three energy giants took out full-page ads in papers across Canada asking voters to tell politicians they support the oil and gas sector ahead of the federal election. Lisa MacGregor has details.

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Three of Canada’s biggest oilsands producers are going directly to voters today to ask them to “influence the outcome” of big decisions concerning the oil and gas sector as a fall federal election looms.

In full-page ads in about 30 English and French daily newspapers across Canada, the CEOs of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc. and MEG Energy Corp. ask readers to call on “leaders of all political stripes” to lend their support to the energy industry.

READ MORE: Cenovus produces one billionth barrel from oilsands operations in northern Alberta

MEG Energy CEO Derek Evans says the campaign, a rare foray into the public realm for companies that usually prefer to speak through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, is coming out in mid-summer because that’s when politicians are meeting voters at barbecues and picnics.

The open letter agrees greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced but it defends the environmental record of the oilsands, contending that emissions intensity per barrel produced has fallen by about 30 per cent over the past two decades.

WATCH: Imran Mulji from Acumen Capital Partners discusses the ads taken out in newspapers across Canada by energy giants MEG, Cenovus and CNRL.

The letter says Canada’s energy companies produce a product that continues to be needed despite the growth of renewable energy, adding that oil and gas producers are the country’s single largest investors in clean energy technology.

LISTEN: Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix joins Danielle Smith to discuss why he and two other CEOs took out the nationwide newspaper ads

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Evans says the campaign is not partisan and he, for one, won’t be unhappy if the Liberals are re-elected, despite their recent adoption – against the advice of the oilpatch – of Bill C-69 to revamp the way energy projects are approved and C-48 to ban oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s North Coast.

READ MORE: MEG Energy posts larger-than-expected loss despite bitumen price increase

“It’s not the governments that need to change, it’s the message the people of the country send to those governments,” he said.

“I’m fine with having Justin Trudeau as prime minister if he embraces a philosophy with respect to energy that says that Canada has a much larger role to play on the global stage and we need to encourage that part of our sector.”

The three companies who signed the letter all market at least part of their oil in the form of non-upgraded bitumen.

WATCH: Global News Radio 770 CHQR’S Danielle Smith joins Global News Morning Calgary to offer her perspective on one of the day’s biggest stories.

Notable for their absence are Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s largest oil and gas company by market capitalization, along with Imperial Oil Ltd. and Husky Energy Inc., all of which have refining and retail sales arms as well as oilsands operations.

Those companies are aware the letter exists and support its general goals but have chosen different ways to communicate, said Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix in an interview.

He said the letter forms part of a new strategy by the industry to reclaim the public narrative that has been taken over by its opponents.

READ MORE: Cenovus asks investors to vote against emissions target motion at AGM

“As we head into the upcoming election, we are asking you to join us in urging Canada’s leaders of all political stripes to help our country thrive by supporting an innovative energy industry,” reads the letter.

“One that can contribute to solving the global climate change challenge and play a significant role in creating future energy solutions by developing our resources in the cleanest most responsible way possible today.”

The Canadian oil industry centred in Calgary has long complained of federal policies that make it difficult to build pipelines and other projects, arguing those factors have scared away investors that supply the capital needed to keep the industry growing.

READ MORE: Oilsands producer MEG Energy posts $199M loss, vows to ship more oil by rail

The letter is being published a day after the Petroleum Services Association of Canada cut its drilling forecast for a second time this year, to 5,100 wells from 5,300 in its May revision.

Its first forecast in January called for 5,600 wells this year, down from an actual 6,948 wells drilled in 2018.

Watch below: Three of the biggest producers in Alberta’s oilsands are appealing directly to Canadians ahead of this fall’s federal election. Tom Vernon explains why.

READ MORE: Alberta oil and gas producer cleanup cost estimates set too low, coalition says

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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