Calgary at a Crossroads

Alberta must take a "much more aggressive position" on access issues if it wants to get its oil to market, says one industry veteran.

"If we are going to be landlocked, and we are going to be prevented from getting our products without this horrible discount that we have to take on the world markets, then I fear for my kids and for my grandkids in terms of their jobs," said Jim Gray.

The businessman and philanthropist has been at the forefront of Alberta's energy sector since the mid-1950s and is chairman of Brookfield Asset Management and a current director of Atlanta Gold and RS Technologies.

Speaking specifically to the latest standstill over the Energy East pipeline, Gray said provinces must put aside their regional differences to achieve what is in the best interest of the country.

He said provinces have in the past five to ten years been too preoccupied with asking "What's in it for me?"

"We've got to stop these local interests. That has to recede. There has to be a national vision for this country," he said.

"Under this situation as it exists today , I doubt we could build the Trans-Canada Highway. I doubt we could build the CPR."

In It Together 

On Tuesday, Gray will speak at a series titled "In It Together," which seeks to find the silver lining to the ongoing economic downturn. 

"There's benefits from $30 oil, believe it or not, because we're starting to innovate and reduce our costs, and do things we would never do at $100 a barrel," Gray said.

Gray said the company he co-founded back in 1973, Canadian Hunter, is an example of how opportunity can be born out of crisis. 

"I'm a believer in contrarian investors. I'm a believer that no matter how difficult the circumstances are, there are still embedded in there opportunities for individuals and for corporations."

Calgary at a Crossroads is CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.