Despite the common misconception, many people in Quebec support Canada’s oil and gas industry – especially amid the growing global energy security crisis ignited by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has reminded us that the world must focus on peace through strength, before the naïve ‘Green’ agenda where surrender of our energy and natural resources is misguided,” says Leonard Gorski, CEO of Montreal-based fashion brand Gorski Group.
He says that oil and gas are essential to a robust Canadian economy – and Canadian independence – where ample supply and stable pricing benefits Quebec businesses.
While Quebec has virtually no oil and gas production of its own, the resources play an important role in the province’s economy. For example, Quebec is Canada’s second-largest market for refined petroleum products after Ontario, according to Canadian Energy Centre research.
Using customized data from Statistics Canada, CEC found that in 2017 the oil and gas sector supported over 20,000 jobs in Quebec and added nearly $1.8 billion to Quebec’s economy.
Calgary-based pipeline giant Enbridge, for example, reports that in 2021 it spent more than $79 million in Quebec on capital and operating costs like salaries, steel and equipment. The company had 122 permanent and temporary employees in Quebec last year.
Enbridge also paid about $2.9 million in corporate and property taxes across the province in 2021.
“This revenue can be used for schools, infrastructure (roads and bridges), health and wellness, recreation, transportation and other services that help strengthen the fabric of the community,” the company said.
MEI economist Miguel Ouellette says Quebec benefits when the West, and particularly Alberta, are doing well in the oilpatch.
“Right now in Quebec we do not produce any oil or natural gas. We import $5 billion a year worth of oil and gas, mainly from the West and from the northeast states of the United States. We’re buying everything,” he says.
He also points to Quebec’s benefits from federal equalization payments, where higher income provinces like Alberta contribute funds that are distributed to lower income provinces like Quebec.
Ouellette says there are trickle down effects into the overall Quebec economy from those equalization payments, which are about $11 billion to $12 billion per year.
“It’s big money and it’s money we use for our programs. It’s not something that we can just say ‘oh it doesn’t matter, we don’t need it,’” he says.
Ouellette says Quebec should develop its own resources – particularly natural gas – instead of banning development, as the provincial government has voted to do.
A new poll by MEI and Ipsos found that 52 per cent of Quebecers think their province should develop its own oil resources rather than importing all the oil it consumes, while just 28 per cent are opposed to this and 20 per cent are undecided.
“We are always looking for new money in Quebec. We’re saying the health care is expensive, the education system is expensive, then why don’t we exploit our own resources?” Ouellette says.
“There is money sleeping underground and I think with what we see in Ukraine, many countries will say that they don’t want Russian natural gas anymore. I think it’s an opportunity for Quebec to exploit and export our natural gas.”
For Gorski, the important work to reduce environmental impacts of Canadian oil and gas must be considered along with the benefits of the industry across the country and around the world.
“While we fashionably aspire to reduce the carbon footprint in all sectors, we must remain mindful that the hurried misguided assault on the oil and gas sector is not in Canadian or global interests,” he says.
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