On November 22, during the Regular Meeting of Whitecourt Town Council, Councillor Paul Chauvet proposed submitting a resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) on Canadian oil and gas imports. Councillor Paul Chauvet suggested crafting a resolution urging FCM to advocate the Federal Government to implement a policy that requires all imported oil and gas utilized in the country to meet the same laws that Canadian producers must follow, including environmental and human rights standards. Councillor Chauvet said that countries that import gas and oil that could not meet those standards should be subject to additional tariffs. During the meeting, Council voted to look into the issue further.
On December 13, the final Policies and Priorities Committee meeting of 2021, Administration brought forward more information. Councillor Chauvet started things off. "Although some people would like to see oil and gas consumption lower, the reality is that worldwide consumption of oil and gas is expected to increase to 130 million barrels a day by 2030 from the 96 million today. Despite this, we can still lower our carbon footprint in Canada by supporting Canadian oil and gas producers that have the highest environmental standards in the world."
The RFD from Administration stated that getting co-sponsors from other provinces that support the resolution would be beneficial. Councillor Chauvet said that including the Indigenous community such as the Mikisew First Nation in Wood Buffalo and the Haisla First Nation in Kitimat, BC. Councillor Bill McAree noted that getting people on board is key. "I think you can't be an Albertan and not support this initiative. I think it's a federal initiative, and I think the more people and provinces we have involved then the better the chance because we should be using Canadian oil on Canadian soil."
Deputy Mayor Derek Schlosser wanted to focus on Canada's high environmental standards. "I think that's what really sells to the Federal Government. I'm not sure I have much of an appetite for talking about other countries. I don't care what they do. I understand that we get oil from countries that perhaps don't have the same environmental record as Canada, etcetera; however, I would like to keep it positive. This is what we need to do for Canada because this is our record. I think that's what we need to concentrate on as opposed to putting down another nation to bring ourselves up."
Councillor Lapointe said she understood the desire to separate specific topics and focus more on the Canadian side than other countries. "There seems to be more of a movement these days of people caring where they place their money and caring what they support. You hear of companies that have gotten products made in different countries where there haven't been great human rights records, and you see a big push back on that. Second, this is the biggest version of shop local ever. And shop local seems to be so much more (important) than ever, so I think this is the right time for something like this."
Councillor Chauvet said commercials are already showcasing ethically sourced coffee beans to show that ethically-based topics are more mainstream. "I agree that we don't have to bash anybody else. We can promote ourselves and what we're doing, whether human rights or the environment. We can do that on our own and let the players decide."
Mayor Tom Pickard joined the conversation stating his agreement that "we are all pro-oil and pro-gas." He also spoke to Canada's ethical products. "Countries and other nations come to this area to see how we are doing it. We've had significant reductions in greenhouse gases. Having worked in the oil industry for the last fifteen years, it is something that is on everyone's mind. There's no one that goes to work in our area that says I want to go to work to poison the air or poison the water. I think we have world leaders in our community."
His concern was whether the resolution was within the lane of Whitecourt's Town Council. "Were we elected as municipal leaders to take on this national fight? Are there people already doing this, and we can voice our support for them?" He also stated that he didn't want the resolution to resemble a political party's platform. "I'm in total agreement that we should be using our oil. For that, I am very much in support. I just want to ensure that we are not stepping way out of our lane."
Councillor Chauvet pointed to the sign at the edge of Whitecourt that states Home of the Duvernay. "I think this is squarely in our lane. It's grassroots and is as close to the ground as it gets. I've been going to FCM for eight years. I've never seen a resolution like this. I think we are the tip of the spear. If not us, then who?"
Councillor Lapointe felt that if the resolution stuck to other communities rather than industry partners, it would keep the approach municipally-based. "There are organizations that are bringing forward industry partners and leaders and such, and that's not us. We are representing the residents of this community, a lot of whom work within oil and gas, (and) are benefitting from an oil and gas leading economy. If we deal with communities that see that same benefit in this resolution and we strike our relationships with those communities and get them on board, then we are absolutely staying in our lane."
Deputy Mayor Schlosser suggested the resolution focus on three pillars: Environmental, Economic, and Civil Liberties. Town Council voted unanimously to have a draft resolution put together ahead of the July 11, 2022 submission deadline for the September FCM Board of Directors meeting. Early in the new year, Council will go over the draft resolution put together by Administration and solidify it ahead of the deadline.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press