Regina Mayor Sandra Masters says citizens are outraged and embarrassed after the city’s executive committee voted in favour of a motion that would restrict energy companies from sponsoring or advertising with the city.
Masters was one of four councillors who opposed the motion on Wednesday, brought forward by Ward 6 Coun. Daniel LeBlanc.
She said over a 10-year period she believes city administration could lose about $10.4 million in sponsorship revenue.
“We sell advertising on buses, we sell advertising on city land and we sell naming rights and sponsorship for activities,” Masters said.
“Council that voted in favour of this said that we don’t want that money, as a signal relative to environmentalism.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called the motion “absurd,” a similar message Masters says she is hearing from many concerned citizens.
“From what we can see here at the city, people are outraged and embarrassed,” Masters said. “The largest industry in our province is mining, oil and gas. Agriculture doesn’t exist without it.
“So much of the sponsorship that exists for events in our city come from the oil and gas sector. We have thousands of jobs in our city that depend upon the oil and gas energy sector, both union and private. It is deeply troubling to me.”
Regina & District Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins also disagrees with the motion.
“On the same day that Canada’s energy industry learned that Keystone XL will be cancelled, potentially affecting hundreds of jobs at EVRAZ, the city of Regina’s executive committee decided to turn its nose up at one of the most important economic anchors in our province,” Hopkins said in a press release on Thursday.
He said Saskatchewan’s energy sector is a key anchor in the province and in Regina, providing economic stability for many families, individuals and businesses.
Hopkins said that even during the coronavirus pandemic, the province’s oil and gas industry generated more than $700 million in revenue for the Saskatchewan economy.
“To restrict the energy sector’s ability to share its success in promoting our city and the many sporting and cultural events it provides is very short-sighted and sends the wrong message,” Hopkins said.
Masters said she could see some councillors change their minds ahead of the Jan. 27 council meeting.
“My fellow councillors, based upon feedback from the residents, could actually walk back what I consider to be an ill-considered and just ill-informed discussion,” Masters said.
It appears Ward 10 Coun. Landon Mohl has already changed his mind after receiving negative feedback from his constituents.
“Yesterday, when this fossil fuels amendment was suddenly added, I had very little time to decide or make an educated decision and I absolutely made the wrong decision,” Mohl posted on Facebook on Thursday.
“I have heard loud and clear from the residents of Ward 10 and I will be voting against the motion at public city council next Wednesday.”
Ward 9 councillor Jason Mancinelli also took to Facebook Wednesday, saying he would change his vote come Jan. 27 if the wording behind the amendment continues to put the oil and gas industry in a negative light.
“This frames me in a light that is not very reflective of who I am or the values I represent. I am a tradesman, small businessman and employer directly tied to oil and gas in the automotive repair industry,” Mancinelli said in the Facebook post.
“In addition, my clients have heavy representation in the oil and gas sector and when the price of oil tanked and then the strike occurred, we all felt it.”
LeBlanc told Global News over the phone on Wednesday that he understands the potential loss in revenue and potential backlash but believes it is worth it in the long run.
“It felt like it was an opportunity for us to sort of put our money where our mouth is and was during the campaign period, which is to live our values and say we’re not willing to implicitly or by assumption, endorse fossil fuel companies,” LeBlanc said on Wednesday.
“There is a financial cost to that, no doubt. But I think that’s the cost of standing up for what you believe in.”
Global News reached out to LeBlanc for further comment on Thursday but has yet to hear back.
Councillors John Findura, Lori Bresciani and Terina Shaw also voted against the motion at the executive committee meeting on Wednesday.
Masters said if the motion passes next week, she believes relationships between the City of Regina and those in Saskatchewan’s energy sector will be forever broken.
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers not impressed
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) described the decision made by the executive committee as ill-informed.
“Regina is crucially important, having a large refinery of petroleum products and a large customer for natural gas and oil,” said Tim McMillan, CAPP president and CEO.
“For us, this is something that we just can’t believe Regina would do. Maybe in a part of Canada where they don’t know our industry, but in a community where we are so integrated…it’s shocking.”
McMillan said it comes down to some council members not being properly informed with the oil and gas industry.
“This seems to be virtue signaling of the worst kind, that it’s not informed by how our industry operates, the products which we produce and provide to citizens,” McMillan said.
“It’s unacceptable for any industry to operate in a way that is inconsistent with the safety and the values of the people of Saskatchewan.
“Our industry has worked very hard to be not just at par, but to be a true leader in the production of oil and gas.”
McMillan said he hopes council decides to reject the motion and treat this experience as a learning moment.
“We want to continue to contribute to the sporting events and the activities that make living in Saskatchewan so great,” McMillan said.