You’ve likely heard a lot about Canada’s oil sands. But unless you live in Northern Alberta you probably haven’t heard from the people living and working in the region.
There’s no doubt that the oil sands are a hot button of debate in Canada. As Canadians, we need to find a balance in responsible development of one of our country’s greatest natural resources—from environmental and socio-economic perspectives.
There’s a staggering amount of global attention focused on the oil sands. Unfortunately, often lost in the stories are the perspectives of some of the most important people involved—those who live next to the development and those who work to responsibly develop this vital energy resource.
Rex Murphy is a well-known journalist in Canada. Hailing from Newfoundland, ‘The Rock’ as he likes to call it, Rex opines on all sorts of issues, political and otherwise, in a weekly column published in the National Post, on a weekly segment on CBC TV news show The National and he also runs a two-hour radio talk show on Sunday afternoons called Cross Country Check Up.
On Sunday, March 18, 2012, Rex took his radio show on the road to tell the story of the people and community of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
The city is as close to ‘ground zero’ as it gets in the oil sands debate, but the people who make up its vibrant and diverse community are rarely heard from. Rex is helping to change that.
In this two hour Cross Country Check Up show, Rex speaks to the Mayor of the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, local citizens, representatives from industry and aboriginal groups, a few callers from across Canada and an environmentalist whose views are likely very different than what you’d expect. Here are some notable quotes:
“The kind of people that are out here are some of the smartest people in the world. We’re one of the highest educated, we come from not only Alberta but Canada and the world… we’re not all men, we’re not all blue collar and we are all here to improve our life.” Mayor Melissa Blake
“There are a thousand researchers at the University of Alberta and throughout the educational networks in Alberta that are working on environmental issues and activities for the benefit of developing this oil sands play as well as other oil industry elements throughout the province.” Bill Ramsey, oil sands construction expert
“Are there issues? Absolutely, there are always issues with industrial projects of any sort. I also know there are people here working hard to address those issues… we are not ignorant of the issues we face in the industry or our community, we are working on them…” Theresa Wells, Fort McMurray lifestyle blogger
“Last year we celebrated planting our five millionth tree in our operation as part of our reclamation efforts… five or six years ago, environmentalists said that was impossible.” Mark Little, Executive Vice President, Suncor
“Aboriginal businesses have the opportunity to kind of evolve with the actual evolution of the oil sands industry…” Tyrone Brass, President of Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association
“The human ecology, the human community that is Fort McMurray is fantastic… there are 200 non-profit community associations operating in this town… The oil companies are doing everything they can, they’re pouring billions of dollars into research and development into how we can do this better…“ Howard Rensler, Master’s Degree in environmental studies, founder of Pollution Probe
These are just a few of a great many excellent comments from participants in Rex’s show. The perspectives are unique and provide insight into the local human ‘environment’ often overlooked in critiques of oil sands development.
Leading up to the show, Rex Murphy wrote an opinion column in the National Post, and ended it poignantly:
The environment is not just what you see on green posters. It is not just sunsets and tall trees. It is also the people living in it. And people need energy, and people need jobs. Projects such as the oilsands, which supplies both in abundance, should be celebrated for its cutting-edge technological and scientific prowess. It is Canada’s great national project for the 21st century.