EDMONTON — It’s one of the big drivers in our economy, but is the province doing enough to keep the oilsands competitive? Several Fort McMurray business groups have come together suggesting more can be done.
“We need to make sure that the oilsands remain a viable development,” says Ben Dutton with Urban Development Institute Wood Buffalo, one of the groups behind the report.
The other two organizations are the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce and Fort McMurray Realtors.
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“There are things we need to do to protect that investment,” says Dutton.
The groups wants what’s known as the oilsands secretariat front and centre. It was created nearly 10 years ago as a strategy to deal with growth. But the feeling is the secrtariat’s role has been diminished with government departments working in silos again.
“What we think the secretariat can achieve is a leadership role in government,” says Dutton. “In both provincial and municipality bringing in industry to prioritize infrastructure.”
“Fort McMurray as a community has to be healthy,” says Evans.
The groups use land as one example where more can be done. In high growth times, the municipality turns to the province to release crown land to deal with growth. But it can be a long process.
The groups argue prices go up, forcing employers to pay more to attract staff, making oilsands operations more expensive.
“It is an opportunity for this new government, under these depressed global oil and gas industry circumstances, to make the kinds of systemic changes that enable oilsands development to be more competitive globally,” says Mike Evans who wrote the 121 page report on behalf of the groups. (Read the full report below).
The call for a renewed focus on the region comes as the industry is dealing with several serious issues such as low commodity prices, the province’s royalty review and environmental worries.
“It would certainly be nice if government could get ahead of the many challenges they face in that community, as opposed to scrambling to catch up,” says Premier Rachel Notley. “I will be asking my minister of municipal affairs and my minister of economic development to work together in reviewing that report.”
“There is no reason not to be able to do all of this if the parties are talking,” suggests Evans.
The full report has been posted below:
Protecting the Investment