OPINION: Why Trudeau is good news for the oil patch

Max Fawcett, the editor of Alberta Oil Magazine, says the oil patch might be in for a pleasant surprise with Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.
A worker walks by an oil derrick outside of Williston, N.D. U.S. oil output is near levels not seen for 40 years contributing to the glut in crude production. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Despite the Liberal red wave that washed over Canada this week, Canada's oil and gas regions remain an island of blue. 

And to some Albertans, that's a flashback to the bad old days -- when the west was on the outside, looking in.

A lot of the the concern about the change of government is centred on oil and gas. But Max Fawcett, the editor of Alberta Oil Magazine, says the oil patch might be in for a pleasant surprise with Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.

The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length.

How is Trudeau better than Harper when it comes to the energy sector? 

Well, it all comes down to pipelines. I've been talking to some people about this lately, and the market access issue - one person described it as existential. It is make or break for the oil and gas industry. For all the nice things that Stephen Harper said on behalf of the industry and on behalf of pipelines, there hasn't been an inch of pipeline that's gotten built in this country lately to tidewater. So I think we have to take a look at the words, and a look at the deeds. On the words side, Prime Minister Harper was great. On the deeds side? Pretty underwhelming. If [Trudeau] can get one or both of those pipelines built - Energy East or the TransMountain expansion - that's a huge win for the energy sector, bigger than all the speeches that a Conservative prime minister might give on their behalf combined. 

Why do you see Trudeau as potentially having more effect on that than Harper did? What's he going to be doing differently?

I think he's certainly going to take some of the rhetoric out of it. The former prime minister was very aggressive, confrontational, over the top. Very strident. And that polarized those communities where there was resistance in Vancouver, in Quebec. I've talked to a lot of people in those communities, and they've told me that's there's a whole constituency of people who never cared about pipelines. They didn't know about them, didn't understand them, weren't interested. But as soon as Prime Minister Harper put his muscle behind those pipelines, they put their muscle on the other side because they didn't like him, and by opposing pipelines, they were effectively spiting him. 

But there is also a lot of legitimate opposition to pipelines, a lot of vehement opposition from environmentalists. Over and above how they might feel about Harper, they just do not want pipelines - particularly environmentalists in British Columbia. How should they feel about a Trudeau government? 

I think if they are unilaterally opposed to any pipelines being built, they're not going to feel as good about Justin Trudeau as maybe they might have about Tom Mulcair. I think we can have that upstream conversation and still get pipelines built in this country, but it will take longer, it will be more taxing for the proponents. He's promised to make the oversight and regulatory process more transparent, more inclusive, more participatory, and I think at the end of the day that's all they can reasonably ask for - that their voices are heard. That opportunity was clipped a bit by the Conservative government in an attempt to fast track the pipelines, and I think that was a tactical mistake - because again, it made the process seem like a fait accompli, and that's not good for trust. 

Click the blue button above to listen to the full interview.


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