Energy Company CEOs, Politicians Reject Oilsands Criticism by Celebrities
Energy Company CEOs, Politicians Reject Oilsands Criticism by Celebrities

TORONTO—Canadians are being misled about the oilsands by critics and celebrities making “sensational” and “unfounded” allegations, the chief executives of two of Canada’s biggest energy companies said Wednesday. 

“Like a character in a Hollywood movie, oil has been cast as a villain,” Cenovus Energy president and chief executive Brian Ferguson said during a panel discussion at the Canadian Club of Toronto. 

“In Hollywood, the land of make-believe, everything is black and white, good and evil. It makes for a very compelling story, but the real world does not work that way.” 

While he didn’t address recent comments by Canadian rock icon Neil Young directly, Ferguson did refer to other celebrities who “have been trash-talking oil,” adding that “when it comes to energy, Hollywood stereotypes are unhelpful and, in many instances, simply dead wrong.” 

“These accusations are absolutely baseless, yet they make front-page headlines,” said Ferguson. “Canadians should be outraged by these accusations.”

Young held a pre-concert news conference in Toronto on the weekend in which he attacked the Harper government and Alberta’s oilsands, comparing a Fort McMurray industrial site he’d visited to the atomic-bomb devastation of Hiroshima, Japan. 

Young said he was “embarrassed” by a Canadian government that was “trading integrity for money” and accused politicians of breaking treaties with the First Nation and plundering natural resources. 

He reaffirmed his criticism Monday after a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper shot back that Canada’s natural resources sector was a fundamental part of the economy. 

Several politicians also criticized Young’s comments Wednesday, saying they were insensitive and misleading. 

“His comparison of Fort McMurray to Hiroshima is as inaccurate as it is insulting to victims and I think really undercuts his credibility,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who is in India for a trade mission, said in a conference call from Mumbai. 

“I just think it’s regrettable that he’s using his fame to advance policies that actually will hurt the very people he claims he wants to help.” 

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall called the comparison ignorant of the facts, and, in Ottawa, Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said he disagreed with the rock star’s comments, but noted Young was entitled to his opinions. 

“He can keep on rocking in a free world,” MacKay said. 

Young and actor-director Robert Redford lead a list of celebrities, such as Daryl Hannah, critical of Keystone and the oilsands. In 2010, Hollywood producer-director James Cameron criticized the oilsands as a “black eye” and a “dead-end paradigm.” 

Both Ferguson and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said the oilsands are being developed responsibly, with First Nations not only benefiting from revenue sharing but also from training and jobs. 

Girling, whose company is still awaiting U.S. government approval to build the US$5.4-billion northern portion of its Keystone XL pipeline years after first applying for a permit, said projects are being put at risk by delays by allegations based in “fantasy and not reality,” which are putting Canada at risk of being left behind in a competitive global market. 

Foreign Minister John Baird was in Washington on Wednesday, pushing for a prompt decision on Keystone. He said that the Obama administration shouldn’t drag out the approval process any longer. 

With files from The Canadian Press

  • OnyxE

    These CEO’s are just insulting. Canadians already know about oil. They are trying to make this a patriotic canadian thing and it isn’t. Kinder Morgan who wants to twin a pipeline to Vancouver is an american company founded by a former Enron employee. Nexen, an oil company owned by China and is involved in the alberta tar sands, wants oil to go by rail to Kitimat if Enbridge’s pipeline idea falls through. The Koch bros who are in favor of the Keystone and stand to gain billions from it also have holdings in the tar sands. There is NO patriotism involved with the oil issues in Canada and these ‘patriotic’ CEOs are simply trying to make this an all canadian thing. There is NO patriotism among oil companies.

  • OnyxE

    There is 150 years worth of oil in the tar sands. IF these CEOs were that patriotic they would not be digging it up and selling it off to the world as fast as they could get it out of the ground with absolutely NO thought for Canadians 150 years from now. That is not that long…a woman here recently celebrated her 116th birthday. So what do future Canadians have to look forward to after all our oil has been sold to China and other foreign markets??

    • Canukistani

      I don’t think that most of them care about the long term. Big oil or any other large corporation is interested in profits now. These CEOs, like most politicians, won’t be around to pay the piper when the bill comes due so they can deflect and deny as long as the money rolls in.

      They have to show their investors profits today, every day and the profits have to keep growing and fueling the cycle of greed. Even companies with steady rates of return on investment seem to be frowned on these days. There always has to be more and more profit, and the consequences are irrelevant.

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