Calgary

Scotiabank CEO 'bullish' on Alberta and believes Trans Mountain 'will get done'

Scotiabank president and CEO Brian Porter says he recognizes the sour mood in the oilpatch but remains optimistic about the future of the industry and its contributions to the country, which he believes go underappreciated.

'Capital will come back to the industry, OK? There's no question about it.'

Scotiabank president and CEO Brian Porter speaks at a Calgary Chamber gathering on Thursday. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Scotiabank president and CEO Brian Porter says he recognizes the sour mood in the oilpatch but remains optimistic about the future of the industry and its contributions to the country, which he believes go underappreciated.

"I'm bullish on the prospects for Alberta and I'm bullish on the prospects for Canada," Porter told a gathering of the Calgary Chamber on Thursday.

"Capital will come back to the industry, OK? There's no question about it."

Constricted export capacity has further hurt an industry already beleaguered by low prices, Porter said, but he believes those constraints will soon ease as new pipelines come online, albeit with some delays.

"Line 3 is going to get built. Rail cars are having an impact. Hopefully Keystone gets done. And I believe — and I have no reason to think it won't happen — that Trans Mountain will get done," he said.

"So that will certainly ease pressures, obviously. And they'll be done in different sequences and they'll probably all take longer than anybody in this room wants, but I believe they'll get done."

In the meantime, Porter said it's important for both government and industry to better communicate to Canadians how oil and gas benefit the entire country, not just Alberta.

Industry not 'well understood by a lot of Canadians'

"I don't think our energy industry is well understood by a lot of Canadians," Porter said.

He said he has personally met with the prime minister and federal finance minister several times and discussed with them his belief about the importance of expanded pipeline capacity to the national economy, but he hopes others will take a similar message to everyday citizens.

A "strong communication effort" is needed, Porter said, "to raise the level of understanding and the importance of this industry to the country itself and why Quebecers and people in New Brunswick or Nova Scotians benefit from a strong energy industry."

"And you know, all this takes time, it takes focus and it takes money," he added.

"I thought the ads that the Alberta government ran during Hockey Night in Canada about the importance of pipelines and the industry were very effective. It's not just me saying that — I could hear that in the hallways at the bank. People were saying that's good; that's what they should be doing."

'Cohesion of the country'

Porter said energy companies are not blameless when it comes to their pipeline woes, noting what he described as failures to adequately consult with communities along the proposed routes.

"I think the industry could have done a better job in terms of dealing with some of the Indigenous tribes," he said.

But he also said the industry is up against "very sophisticated" opponents who are "extremely well-funded" and "spreading a lot of misinformation about the industry."

That, he said, has helped inflame regional tensions to an alarming degree.

"I worry about the cohesion of the country," Porter said. "This is starting to tear at the social fabric of the country, and that's concerning."

The solution, in his view, lies in better communication between Alberta and the rest of Canada.

"Give them the facts and and let Canadians make the decision."

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