and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water
scarcity and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security
environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly
affect NATO planning and operations.
Strategic Concept 2010
In a joint mission
of the Economics and Security Committee (ESC) and the Science and Technology
Committee (STC), 19 parliamentarians learned more about Canada’s substantial unconventional
energy assets and the technology being employed to extract these resources. In
addition to site visits, they discussed the impact the unconventional oil and
gas industry has on Canada’s economy, energy security and environment with
industry representatives, government officials and independent experts.
Finally, delegates took the opportunity to meet with Canadian experts on the
Arctic, the rise of China and the Canada-US economic relationship, to
complement other strategic issues of interest to their committees and to the
Alliance as a whole.
Canadian Member of Parliament for Vegreville–Wainwright, Chair of the Canadian
NATO Parliamentary Association and of the ESC’s Subcommittee on Transatlantic
Economic Relations, and Mario Tagarinski, a Bulgarian Member of Parliament and
Chairman of the STC’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environmental Security, led
the delegation. The delegation included Canadian Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin,
Treasurer of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Vice-Chair of the STC.
Field Visit to
Alberta and British Columbia’s Oil and Gas Region
During the first
two days of the mission, the delegation visited sites in northern Alberta and
eastern British Columbia. Close to Fort McMurray, the delegation had the opportunity
to tour Shell’s Athabasca Oil Sands Project and its Muskeg River Mine. The
delegation members took a first-hand look at the project’s open-pit mining.
This included visiting the company’s tailing facilities, as well as viewing
areas of reclaimed land. Members met with representatives from Shell, both
from the technical as well as the public relations divisions, and discussed
their mining operations in Alberta and environmental concerns. Members also
viewed an in situ mining site.
At Athabasca Oil Sands
Project, a presentation was given by the Canadian Association of Petroleum
Producers (CAPP), an umbrella organization for the companies engaged in
Canada’s oil, oil sands and natural gas industry. Janet Annesley,
Vice-President of Communications, told the delegation what CAPP is doing to
balance the 3 E’s – Economy, Environment and Energy. This includes having a
strong policy and regulatory framework in place on environmental issues,
pushing science and technology to lessen environmental impact and working with
communities to strengthen the companies’ social license to operate. Ms.
Annesley pointed to the industry’s economic benefits for both Canada and the
On the second day,
the delegation visited Dawson Creek, just inside British Columbia, where they
toured a drilling site operated by the natural-gas producer Encana. However,
due to heavy rainfall in the days before the delegation’s arrival, it was
prevented from visiting Encana’s completion operations, where hydraulic
fracturing (or fracking) takes place. Encana engineers explained to members
how the process worked and addressed the concerns members had about the
environmental impact, particularly with respect to the chemicals used in the
process and their effect on ground water reservoirs.
Canadian Unconventional Energy Resources
members held meetings with a number of industry representatives, government
officials and independent experts with respect to Canada’s unconventional
Larry Staples of
the Alberta Chamber of Resources (ACR), the provincial industry association for
companies working in the natural-resources sector, told delegates that the ACR
is working to develop Alberta’s natural resources, such as coal, energy and
minerals, in a responsible and orderly fashion. Mr. Staples stressed that
natural resources in Alberta were no “sunset industries,” stating that at
current production levels, oil and gas extraction could be sustained for 300 to
400 years, and coal reserves existed for approximately 800 years. As the
economic driver of the province, half of the work force in Alberta is employed
directly and indirectly in the resource sector, with economic benefits
distributed widely. In contrast to other resource-rich areas, Alberta’s sector
requires skilled workers who receive high salaries and is very information- and
knowledge-intensive, providing high value-added. In the discussion with Mr.
Staples, members, inter alia, debated Canada’s place in the global energy
market; ongoing and future infrastructure projects; Canada’s policies on
climate change, environmental issues, employment, energy, as well as the
economy; and relations with Canada’s first nations.
Members also met
with the Honourable Rob Renner, Alberta’s Minister of Environment. He
discussed recent pieces of legislation pertaining to the province’s energy
industry and the environment. He also acknowledged that regulatory and policy
frameworks need to be further refined. The delegation discussed carbon
reduction strategies and industry policies, as well as the role of energy
efficiency programs, developing better infrastructure, environmental concerns,
and the relationship between federal and provincial regulation.
Executive Advisor of Oil Sands Strategy and Operations for the Government of
Alberta, discussed oil sands policy from the perspective of the provincial
government. He indicated that the provincial government wants to diversify its
energy markets, and is therefore looking to move oil to port facilities, most
importantly on Canada’s west coast, so that it can be sold on the global
market. It also hopes to see a pipeline constructed to Texas refineries and
port facilities, as Texas has some of the world’s largest refineries, which
also are equipped to handle oil sand crude. Those projects, however, are now on
Andrew Buffin from
the Clean Energy Information and Advocacy Office of Alberta’s Ministry of the
Environment noted that the oil sands are highly regulated and are controlled
under water and climate change legislation. The mines are subject to rigorous
environmental assessments and are not simply given a green light to open up
operations. There are multi-layered compliance processes, and provincial as
well as federal authorities constantly carry out compliance assessments and
investigations. Officials are working with industry to reduce the size of
tailings ponds, and efforts are being made to prevent seepage into the river
system. There have recently been a number of technological breakthroughs on
Bob Savage from
Alberta’s Climate Change Secretariat noted that the oil sands generate 6.5 per
cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that there have been significant
reductions in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated per barrel of
oil produced. Strides have also been made in improving energy efficiency.
Carbon capture and storage and green energy production are all seen as ways to
drive emissions down even further. He also argued that many of those criticizing
the oil sands on the basis of climate change considerations are not factoring
in life cycle analysis of oil sands production. When this is considered, oil
sands production is not significantly different in terms of its impact on
Dr. Joseph Doucet,
professor and Director of the University of Alberta’s School of Energy and the
Environment, suggested that market forces are inexorably driving the
development of unconventional energy resources. Rising energy demand,
population growth and growing incomes in countries like China and India are all
factors in this regard. Alberta is not only endowed with critical energy
reserves, but it also lies adjacent to the world’s most important energy
market: the United States. This location gives it advantages that other
producers lack. In order to move forward, however, the energy industry in
Alberta must demonstrate that it will operate in an environmentally clean and
socially responsible fashion.
Dr. Robert Page,
professor of environmental management at the University of Alberta noted that
the Kyoto Protocol has posed a problem for the oil sands industry because it
does not look at life cycle emissions. This puts the industry at a
disadvantage, even though the oil sands’ emissions are very similar to other oil
sources if the entire production and usage life-cycle is factored in. The
Government of Canada is seeking to harmonize its emissions regulations with
those of the United States to create a more seamless continental market.
Professor Page noted that the US administration is keen on getting the Keystone
pipeline project approved by the EPA. However, environmental groups and some
First Nations communities on both sides of the border are opposing both the
pipeline to Texas and the one to British Colombia. Although oil and gas are at
the forefront of Alberta’s energy industry, the province also has tremendous
wind power potential; however, investments to update the grid are needed to
develop this industry further.
evening, at a dinner hosted by the head of the Canadian delegation, Mr. Leon
Benoit, delegates heard from journalist and author, Mr. Ezra Levant, who gave a
presentation based on his book Ethical Oil: A Case for Canada’s Oil Sands.
Other Strategic Issues
With respect to
Canada’s strategic position in the North, the delegation heard two expert views
on the current status of climate change as well as the security and defence
policies of various actors in the polar region.
Dr. David Hik,
Interim Director of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of
Alberta, provided an update on the most recent climate change data as they
pertain to the Arctic region and the related challenges. In his view, one of
the challenges the scientific community confronts is the need to reduce
uncertainty in climate-change models. Information and data collection on
melting processes remain insufficient. One initiative is community-based
monitoring conducted by those living in the High North. Dr. Hik highlighted
these other challenges with respect to climate change research in the Arctic:
understanding the future of sea ice and terrestrial snow cover; the fate of
permafrost and terrestrial carbon; the polar aspects of ocean circulation and
the carbon cycle; and, the role of ice sheet dynamics in sea level rise.
With respect to
Arctic defence and security issues, Dr. Rob Huebert, Associate Director of the
Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary,
provided an in-depth overview of the defence and security policies of the
various players who have a stake in the Arctic’s current and future potential.
He argued that, officially, no government wants to discuss nascent tensions in
the Arctic and instead, talk has been centred on cooperation. However, if one looks
at military expenditures, military exercises and official statements, a
different picture emerges. New actors and organizations are taking part in the
politics of the Arctic, including the European Union and China, and new
divisions will become even clearer in the future.
The Rise of
Dr. Wenran Jiang,
Associate Professor of political science at the University of Alberta,
discussed the rise of China and its impact on global energy markets. He
suggested that there is a very close correlation between China’s development
paradigm and its energy use. In a sense, the world has exported its heavy
industry to China, and this is the central reason why its energy use is so
significant and will not decline. By 2016, China’s economy is expected to be
larger than that of the US in purchasing power of parity terms, and its impact
on global energy markets will be even more significant. He noted that it is
important to recognize that China’s per capita use of energy is currently very
low compared to the United States, and it will grow rapidly in the coming
decades; yet, it is already one of the largest contributors to global
greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Jiang argued
that China’s rapid rise and mounting energy demands have important security
implications. China is vulnerable as 80 per cent of the oil it consumes passes
through the Malacca Straits. This is why it is signing deals with Kazakhstan
and Russia in order to bring energy into China over land. The Chinese believe
that Russia has essentially brought Europe to its knees through gas pipelines,
and they are determined not to let this happen to their country by diversifying
its supply base. China is also developing a blue water navy to reduce its
sense of vulnerability. China’s economic and military growth is inevitable,
and Western countries are going to have to learn how to accommodate it. The
best way to accomplish this is to garner an understanding of the internal
dynamics of that country and recognize that Western leverage there will remain
limited. It is essential to understand as well that the greatest fear of the
Chinese leadership is instability and that this fear drives much of their
China has embarked
on an ambitious campaign to upgrade its military. They want to challenge US
power in the Taiwan Strait, but China poses less of a threat to the United
States in global terms. China’s defence spending has increased markedly since
the 1980s. This cannot be stopped externally. It is nonetheless important to
forge contacts with the Chinese military, which is highly nationalistic and
deeply suspicious. Proper frameworks are needed to shape this engagement.
China’s engagement in the world is driven by a deep and historic sense of
strategy. They have approached weakened European countries like Iceland and
Greece to offer assistance, but also to gain a toehold in these countries. The
Chinese leadership understands intuitively that economic power translates into
Dr. Jiang also told
delegates that it is also important to recognize the internal constraints to
China’s rise. These include profound inequality, a wide urban/rural income
differential, environmental degradation and deep corruption in some regions.
China is also an aging society. Yet, none of these factors are likely to
derail its rise. The governing elite remains quite compact and determined to
maintain their hold on power. It would take an unlikely confluence of
developments to summon the conditions needed to knock them from power, and this
seems very unlikely.
Economic and Strategic Partnership
Dr. Greg Anderson
of the Alberta Institute for American Studies at the University of Alberta
argued that since the attacks of 11 September 2001, border issues and border
security have tended to dominate the US-Canadian relationship. This has had an
adverse impact on relations between the two countries, and it has made the
trading relationship more difficult. In a broader sense, the US has not
focused a great deal of attention on its relationship with Canada, even though
it is by far its most significant trading partner and an important strategic
ally. This Department of Homeland Security was created under the George W. Bush
Administration, bringing 22 federal agencies, including Customs and Border
Protection, under one Department. Each one of these agencies brought their own
bureaucratic culture, and the result was a degree of chaos and incoherence.
Dr. Anderson argued that, due to its mandate and responsibilities, particularly
in relation to border security, a priority focus for DHS is Canada and
therefore, Canada’s relationship with the United States has been held hostage
by the problems in this newly created department. This has gone far in
undermining North American integration, and it has created deep resentment in
further suggested that Canadian officials have mistakenly ignored its other
NAFTA partner, Mexico, on a range of matters pertaining to border security
where it could be an effective ally in promoting shared interests. As a
result, the United States has managed to pull off a divide and conquer strategy
which has sacrificed the interests of both Mexico and Canada. In the meantime,
moving goods and people across the US-Canadian border has become slow and
complex, at significant cost to businesses on both sides of the border.
Additionally, border crossings need significant infrastructure upgrades to
handle increased traffic. According to Dr. Anderson, the required investments
are not being made.
and their NATO counterparts had the opportunity to visit oil and gas extraction
sites in Alberta and British Columbia. In addition, they spoke with
representatives from government and industry as well as academic experts.
Overall, delegates were able to gain an appreciation of the impact the
unconventional oil and gas industry has on Canada’s economy, energy security
and environment. Finally, delegates met with Canadian academics to discuss
other strategic issues of importance to the Alliance including the Rise of
China, the Arctic and Canada-US economic relations.
Mr. Leon Benoit, M.P.
Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (NATO PA)
Concept For the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organisation,” Adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon.