Calgary

Victoria mayor visits Alberta for oilsands tour after urging lawsuit against energy sector

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is in Alberta this week to tour an oilsands operation at the suggestion of some members of Calgary city council.

'Whether I am going to become a champion of oil and pipelines after the end of the day tomorrow, I don't know'

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, shown here in 2016, wrote letters to 19 of the world's largest oil and gas companies asking them to chip in to cover her city's growing bills due to climate change. (Andrew Clippingdale/DoddsEyeMedia)

The mayor of Victoria is in Alberta this week to tour an oilsands operation at the suggestion of some members of Calgary city council.

The Calgary politicians invited Mayor Lisa Helps to join them for the tour after Victoria city council endorsed a potential class-action lawsuit against the oilsands industry.

Helps will join industry leaders from Cenovus and members of the pro-energy advocacy group Canada Action for a tour on Friday of the steam-assisted gravity drainage oilsands project at Foster Creek.

"There's way too much polarization, there's way too much finger pointing, and I think even if we disagree, we need to disagree in an informed way — and that's one of the reasons that I am coming," she said Thursday.

At Cenovus's Foster Creek oilsands operation, 450-metre-deep wells are drilled and steam is injected to soften and separate buried oil from sand. (Cenovus)

"I'm coming with an open mind to learn more about the industry and to broaden my perspective. Whether I am going to become a champion of oil and pipelines after the end of the day tomorrow, I don't know, I think that would be a radical shift."

In December, Helps penned letters to 19 of the world's largest oil and gas companies asking them to chip in to cover her city's growing bills in proportion to their greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to climate change.

That was based on a 2015 report saying storm surges, combined with a one-metre rise in sea level — projected by the year 2100 — could result in business disruption losses of $415,557 per day in Victoria.

The city also put forward a resolution for the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) to ask the Union of B.C. Municipalities to explore launching a class action lawsuit on behalf of local governments to recover costs arising from climate change from major energy firms.

But that resolution was defeated last week at AVICC's convention.

Calgary Coun. Jeff Davison says the tour is a unique opportunity to show a skeptic that Canada's energy sector is pursuing ethical and environmentally sound developments.

"Although we may not change each other's positions, I think it's important that we can get together and at least talk about some of the facts that are out there," said the Ward 6 rep.

The trip was organized by Canada Action, which bills itself as a grassroots group that works to support Canada's natural resources sector.

Cenovus Energy shareholders on Wednesday voted down a motion that would have required the oilsands company to set greenhouse gas emission targets aligned with the goals of the Paris climate accord.

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