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My wife and I attended the rally at Confederation Building last week with hundreds of the many thousands impacted by the downturn in the oil and gas industry in this province. A former worker on the West White Rose Project, I have been out of work since April.
We were disappointed with Premier Andrew Furey’s continued rhetoric on how he is holding the federal government’s feet to the fire. They are obviously insensitive to the flames, or the fire is simply giving off too little heat (perhaps he is using some of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s abundant green energy).
Tragically, the provincial government appears satisfied to sit and wait for more Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) funding or income support to be extended while the oil and gas sector revisits/reconsiders its investment in the region. I say this as the premier was extremely clear that the focus was on getting support for the workers but not the companies who have invested in this province. Premier Furey is an educated man, and although I am not an economist, I do not think it takes an economist or a rocket scientist to understand that if these companies are not supported and they decide that it is no longer economical to invest in our offshore, there will be no workers to support — only the unemployed. To suggest otherwise is naïve at best and intentionally misleading at worst.
Our offshore industry needs support, just like the automakers in the United States needed support in 2008.
To advocate that we can convert to so called “green energy” overnight is beyond ridiculous. Green energy requires research and investment that can only be funded by a strong economy. There is no economic case to support radical conversion to green energy at this time. To think that Trudeau can have an audience with a 17-year-old high school student from Sweden but ignore the requests and pleadings of industry leaders like the CEO of Noia is not only insulting to our province, it suggests that we have no voice at the federal level whatsoever. To echo Ches Crosbie’s request, Trudeau should appoint a new federal representative for this province, as MP Seamus O’Regan has been providing lip service on this issue.
And to laud the federal funding initiatives as support for our offshore workers is, once again, insulting, as these programs were put in place to support the unemployed casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.
Our offshore industry needs support, just like the automakers in the United States needed support in 2008. At that time, the U.S. government recognized that, as unpopular as it was to some, to let the industry fail would have been cataclysmic to the economy and the welfare of thousands of workers. This situation is not so different — only on a provincial rather than a national scale. Closer to home and to the topic at hand, when Gulf pulled out of the Hibernia development in 1992, the investment by the federal government resulted in not only the survival of the project but the beginning of a very profitable industry for this province. This, at a time when the collapse of the fishery was shaking the very foundations of our economy. What would have happened to our province without that federal support?
I first walked off a helicopter onto the deck of an offshore platform in 1980, off the coast of Labrador, as a green 20-year-old. Since then, I have worked on rigs from Sable Island to the Beaufort Sea and on three of our offshore developments. I have seen a lot of ups and downs in this industry over the intervening years but never such a lack of support from the provincial government as we are seeing today. As many stated at the rally, including our Noia CEO and the leader of the opposition, the time for talk is long past. It is time for action.