Calgary

Story of energy sector's huge importance to national economy lost on rest of Canada, Alberta banker says

Alberta's energy industry could do a better job of informing Canadians what the oil and gas sector is worth to the economy, says the head of ATB Financial.

Some people think the auto sector is more valuable than oil and gas, but the opposite is true — by far

Dave Mowat speaks at a press conference in Calgary while he was chair of Alberta's Royalty Review Advisory Panel. Mowat says Albertans need to do a better job of understanding the size and importance of the province's oil sector and communicating it to the rest of the country. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Alberta's energy industry could do a better job of informing Canadians what the oil and gas sector is worth to the economy.

That's the assessment of Dave Mowat, ATB Financial's outgoing CEO.

A post by the bank's economics and research team this week addresses a perception that the Canadian auto sector is bigger than oil and gas.

But it's not even close — oil and gas accounted for $114 billion of Canada's GDP last year, compared to $18 billion from the auto sector.

Mowat says it's up to Albertans to get the facts out, beyond an advertising campaign.

"I think we've had our head down a little bit too far," he said during an CBC Calgary editorial board meeting.

"It's just like a company that doesn't communicate well with its shareholders, and I think from our perspectives, we really see Canada as our shareholders, and they are."

An ATB graph comparing the value of Canada's oil and gas and auto sectors. (ATB Financial)

Mowat, who served as chair of the Alberta Royalty Review Advisory Panel in 2016, says getting the province's story out includes making sure Albertans themselves know the facts.

"When somebody throws a ... 'you guys produce more CO2 than blah, blah, blah,' we don't really have a comeback, so we don't know a lot of the facts about our own province," he said.

"And so I think we haven't been very good at just being good to our shareholders, good to the rest of Canadians, to really tell that story in an even-handed way."

In January, Mowat announced he will be stepping down as CEO of ATB effective June 30 after 10 years at the company's helm. 

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