Two hundred sixty-five academics from our Canadian universities recently deemed it necessary to write a letter asking the federal government NOT to provide financial assistance to our oil and natural gas industry during this COVID-19 crisis.
Their opinion is predictable. In brief, let the industry die because we’re moving to renewables anyways.
We all support academic freedom and uninhibited research, but that’s not what’s happening here.
From the range of academic specialties represented, many of the signatories are experts in neither energy markets, environment, nor economics — so they certainly aren’t speaking from research or expertise.
Instead, these signatories are simply parroting a popular ideology that opposes hydrocarbon extraction at any cost, human or economic.
For these professors to leverage their titles and institutional reputations in an effort to divert support from our oil and gas sector, is incomprehensible. That it comes in the middle of a Saudi Arabia/Russia price war and global pandemic that has left the economy in tatters and tens of thousands of working women and men with little economic hope, is more than tone deaf — it’s offensive.
Especially disconcerting, nine of the signatories were from the University of Regina.
Perhaps these academics have forgotten that our oil and gas sector is Canada’s largest industry representing 10 per cent of Canada’s GDP and approximately 500,000 jobs for Canadian families.
Maybe they misunderstand how their salaries, benefits, sabbaticals and leave are paid primarily from provincial government revenues, supported largely by oil and gas, especially in Saskatchewan.
Lost to the signatories may be that oil and gas are fundamental to the fight against COVID-19. While heating our homes, we need oil and gas to transport goods and medical supplies. In fact, many of our lifesaving essential medical equipment is derived from oil and gas. We would lose the fight against COVID-19 without MRIs, IV bags and tubes, medical shields, gloves, antiseptics and hundreds of other medical supplies and products.
Another important fact is that many forecasts show global demand for oil will increase for at least the next 30 years. The world needs a supplier of that resource — and we have the third-largest oil reserves on the planet and produce it in perhaps the most environmentally and socially responsible way on earth.
Canadians should meet that energy demand, assisted by the skill and brainpower of many current and future university graduates. If we don’t, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Russia and other ruthless regimes with horrific environmental and human rights records will instead supply the world — and we will continue importing even more energy from them instead of fellow Canadians.
Our oil and gas workers and their families are struggling from a perfect storm and need our support now more than ever. Not professors leveraging their titles and institutional reputations to haughtily condemn working people to unemployment and the loss of hope.
The lack of knowledge and empathy they have displayed is truly appalling.
That’s why the Buffalo Project Advisory Board has written to President Chase of the University of Regina.
We have requested the university issue a public statement indicating the ideological views of their professors DO NOT represent those of their institution, and also to recognize the importance of our oil and gas sector to Saskatchewan, Canada and the world.
Many Buffalo Project supporters are large funders to Saskatchewan universities and have indicated their reluctance to continue contributions without a check and balance on this type of faculty activism.
If not corrected, then it is time for governments to seriously consider how to invest scarce post-COVID public dollars. We need to, at the very least, ensure we do not overly fund professors who contribute more to ideological flights of fancy, than the public good.
Thankfully, the vast majority of our professors are still dedicated to empirical knowledge and human betterment.
But we need to stand up to those whose use our universities to spread dogma and advance their political agendas.
Dallas Howe, Stan Grad and Bill Turnbull are part of the advisory board for the Buffalo Project, a group of citizens who advocate for a new deal for Alberta and Saskatchewan.