Big Oil backs NDP energy/climate policies, Little Oil lining up behind United Conservative Party
Crescent Point Energy, whose CEO Scott Saxberg is a vocal critic of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s energy and climate policies, is leaving the Canadian Assoc. of Petroleum Producers in a move one observer says is likely the start of a trend now that the United Conservative Party will soon be launched.
“Crescent Point Energy did not renew with CAPP for the 2017 year. If they decide to renew again, we would look forward to working with them in the future,” said spokesperson Chelsie Klassen. Crescent Point Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
Saxberg threatened to move corporate headquarters to Saskatchewan after the NDP government confirmed it would review the Alberta oil and gas royalty regime, a contentious promise during the 2015 election campaign. Only a small portion of Crescent Point’s revenues are derived from Alberta, making it easy to “shift that money into Saskatchewan,” he told reporters.
Since then, Saxberg has become a close political ally of Premier Brad Wall, leader of the conservative Saskatchewan Party. Wall has crossed swords with Notley several times over Alberta’s controversial Climate Leadership Plan, particularly the carbon tax.
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Political scientist Keith Brownsey thinks Crescent Point’s decision to leave CAPP, Canadian industry’s chief lobbying group, is entirely political and probably the start of a trend.
“A number of other large producers support the [Alberta] carbon tax, supported and came out on the good end of the royalty review,” Brownsey said in an interview.
As a rule of thumb, Alberta’s large producers belong to CAPP, while junior and medium-sized are represented by the Explorers and Producers Assoc. of Canada, whose CEO Gary Leach has also been very critical of the perceived increase in regulation and taxes under the Alberta NDP.
A number of CAPP members have praised Notley’s climate approach.
“It’s my belief that the carbon policy here in Alberta was one of the key reasons the federal government was able to get its mind around approving these new expansions [two pipeline approvals last Nov.],” Cenovus CEO Brian Ferguson told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce audience last month.
Former CAPP president Dave Collyer thinks that lowering greenhouse gas emissions from energy production is just good policy and in line with the international view on global warming.
“I think the industry in Calgary ought to be more visibly supportive of the direction that both the federal and provincial governments are going,” he said in an interview.
Collyer would prefer that policy and politics around emissions be separated, that the discussion not be polarized the way it is now.
“There are companies that are not supportive of that agenda for various reasons and in some ways it’s become more polarized in the province rather than less, partly as a function of the current political dynamic and the efforts to unit the right and all of that, and climate is part of that dialogue,” he said.
CAPP President Tim McMillan, a former Saskatchewan Party minister responsible for oil and gas regulation, and a veteran of the oilfield services sector, has been visibly supportive of the Notley government.
For instance, after four CAPP members were on the stage with Premier Notley on Nov. 21, 2015 to introduce the Climate Leadership Plan, McMillan issued a press release in which he said:
“…we expect today’s announcement to further enhance the reputation of our sector and improve our province’s environmental credibility as we seek to expand market access nationally and internationally. As well, the province’s climate strategy may allow our sector to invest more aggressively in technologies to further reduce per barrel emissions in our sector and do our part to tackle climate change. That’s what the public expects, and that’s’ what we expect of ourselves.”
Contrast McMillan’s complimentary, supportive comments with those of Ric McIver during my recent interview with the former interim leader of the PC party: “…with all due respect, I think it’s the NDP that’s on the extreme end of this thing. They’re prepared to shut down entire industries prematurely in order to satisfy some dogmatic master that they seem to answer to.”
Big Oil, especially the leading players in the oil sands, is backing the NDP’s energy and climate policies, even if corporate executives – generally a pretty conservative bunch – may not like Rachel Notley’s social and fiscal policies or her party’s politics.
Smaller producers like Crescent Point Energy that may not benefit as much as the big players – or may even suffer higher costs – are opposed.
Saxberg is admittedly a small sample, but the political fissures over the carbon tax, a modest corporate tax hike, and fugitive methane emissions have been widening for months.
A political earthquake was inevitable.
Judging by Saxberg’s decision to leave CAPP, it appears that Little Oil is prepared to go all in with the United Conservative Party.
“Saxberg is making noise right now purely for partisan reasons, I think,” concludes Brown.
I agree. Now, when will the next quake shake Alberta politics?
Didnt the NDP make it illegal for businesses and unions to contribute to political parties? And if the head of a small play conventional oil company wants to move, do so, but only after you ve capped your exsisting wells and paidback any mineys loaned to you by the province of Alberta in full with interest
Perhaps Saxberg should spend more time managing his balance sheet and stop diluting shareholder value. Neither the Alberta government nor the carbon tax nor CAPPs position on climate change are to blame for the dismal performance of CPG’s stock. Put a sock in it Saxberg! Take a pay cut, and start managing the damn company!