Skip to content

OPINION: Diversify.

Gov't needs to lead the way for diversification

Restaurants are closing due to COVID concerns, local retail is in danger due to the economy, pandemics and the continuing draw of online shopping, lower prices and abundant selection. Retailers, service companies, media outlets and even home-based businesses who want to survive have been forced to lower prices, cut costs, cut staff and join online worlds to compete and exist. In other words, they have been forced to pivot. Restaurants that once seated 200 for lunchtime rushes, now hire an army of delivery drivers responding to added phone lines and online connections to deliver to the customers. Even doctors and clinics have adjusted their structures to provide online and personal medical advice through ‘dial-a-doctor’ outpatient services. Veterinarians do the same thing. Even Avon has shifted to online virtual house parties. They all have to, otherwise they will lose business and customers

So why do we still need welders only for oil pipelines? Why are trucking firms continuing to hurt through the oil and gas slowdown? Why are labourers and skilled instrumentation workers alike still feeling the pinch of the declined oil sector? Many individuals in those trades and occupations have already made the difficult choices to shift their focus. They had to if they were going to continue to provide for themselves and their families and their remaining staff. But even as many in the oil and gas workforce leave the industry, the province continues to push faith and money into it. Why won’t the government consider a pivot, an adaptation … do what Alberta retailers, HR managers, rig-hands, truck drivers and fitness consultants have already been forced to do. Change direction.

Is there money in the oil industry? Absolutely. The riches of bitumen have been fueling the world for a century and more. Is there money in the oil industry right now? No. So why continue to fuel the narrative? Why pay five executive members of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission — a provincial Crown corporation — $1.8 million in annual payroll, as their last five annual reports show? The 2019 annual report says the APMC’s overall administrative expenses for 2019 were $7.2 million — up from $4.6 million in 2018.

Despite those kinds of gross financial payouts that only serve to anger anyone who has suffered because of the economic downturn, a call for change isn’t saying we just drop the industry altogether. This is not a death-knell for a livelihood that has hired and helped millions to keep food on our tables. Heck no. It may well rebound — and likely will — but when it does, the world will have moved on quite a bit. Small-town retail, restaurants, movie theatres and doctors’ offices won’t look the same again. So why should the oil and gas industry? This is the perfect time to change. (A starting suggestion might be to cut the APMC — there’s nothing like taxpayer-funded millionaires working year- after-year on a money-losing government commission to force that demand for change.)




It’s a word we see as a buffer between hardcore oil and gas wealth and a guy scaling a smoke-stack to hang a GreenPeace banner. Diversify. Industry supporters say they have diversified. Industry opponents say not enough. Somewhere in the middle is the place we all need to be. And this truly is the time to diversify the industry. Begging for its return, longing for the recovery to $100-a-barrel oil prices can continue to happen — but at the same time, workers in all aspects of that industry must all be ready to pivot. And our governments need to support that drastic change. The need to pivot, adapt and diversify isn’t about greenhouse gasses or emission standards, liberal vs. conservative-thinking or politics. It’s about quality of life, earnings, health and wellness … and the future of everyone, not just pipeliners and oil company executives.

Solar power, wind power, hydro … this isn’t about ‘going green’ — it’s about surviving … with paychecks.

Pipeliners can walk in both worlds — working in trenches for pipelines that are still being built one month, and trenching electrical conduit from windfarms to generator stations the next month. Welders can do the same, truck drivers can haul solar panels and electronics to sun-driven power stations in the summer and haul camp-shacks and rigs to the oil platforms still needed in the winter. As long as we still have services to power and fuel our lives — and more importantly, as long as we are working and providing for ourselves and our families, — the colour of the industrial provider shouldn’t matter, black-gold, or green.