I recently collaborated on a paper for the Atlantica Centre for Energy. A highly critical commentary in the TJ today suggested that I authored the report. This might be another debate about semantics but I helped write this report but it is squarely an ACfE report. This matters because I think it was an important step forward for an industry funded group to make the kind of arguments made in this report. Yes, the report puts forward the premise that we can have natural resources development and communities that are great places to live – in fact the report makes the case the two are linked -with examples from across North America.
But the report is really meant to start a broader conversation about the right framework for this development. It’s not just about economics – damn the torpedoes – but you can’t either just eschew any time of development because there are potential risks. As I have said before, there were 10,000 workplace accidents in 2010 reported to the workers’ compensation organization in New Brunswick. If we came to the decision we can’t support any development that has risk, we wouldn’t leave our houses in the morning.
The other critical point made by this report – is that if something happens – if some form of natural resource development causes harm – the government has to have the back of the people. It has to make it right. I won’t go into the details of the report but you should read this part – it is not the normal kind of framing of this you would see from an industry funded group.
There are industry proponents making the case for shale gas, mining and wind energy (this is the most controversial these days – it was a big issue in Ontario’s recent election and there are many stories about the wind energy around Amherst and the anger among local residents). That’s their job. There are environmental groups that see their mandate as fundamentally about stopping shale gas or mining or more tree cutting or Costcos built on wetlands (the wind energy issue is a little more polarizing).
I am not sure folks at the hard end of these positions will ever come to some full fledged agreement. I am not sure that is what we should expect in a democracy.
But for everyone else – the 90 percent of people in the middle that want both – natural resources development, jobs and taxes for public services – and protection of their environment – those are the folks that want to be engaged in the broader conversation.
I hope this paper is one small part in this conversation.