Opinion Editorial: Energy development in Nova Scotia

April 20, 2016

My family history is common among fellow life-long Albertans whose parents left other regions of Canada to find new opportunities in Wild Rose country. My parents moved to Alberta in the early 1970s; my mother from Newfoundland, and my father from Nova Scotia. Today, my relatives live in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Quebec.

As a first generation Albertan, I have always been proud of my East Coast background, and I treasure memories made throughout my life when we visited Dartmouth to spend time with my grandparents, and aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad’s side. My trailblazing grandmother, Eileen Stubbs, who served as a councillor, and as Mayor of Dartmouth in the mid-1970s, loomed large in family get-togethers, and in the stories that inform our family’s history. She had a profound influence on me, and perhaps that’s why I’ve been so interested and involved in public service, politics, and community advocacy my entire adult life. I am grateful for the trust the people of the rural Alberta constituency of Lakeland have put in me to represent them in the House of Commons, following in the public service footsteps of my grandmother.

As part of my responsibilities as the Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Natural Resources, I’ve been meeting with natural resources stakeholders across Canada. For four days during the recent two-week break in the Parliamentary session, I visited Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Former Member of Parliament Scott Armstrong was instrumental in setting up meetings with stakeholders and significant natural resource developers, including Alton Natural Gas Storage and the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, and he was kind enough to join me on this quick whirlwind trip. I really enjoyed seeing parts of Nova Scotia I hadn’t visited before, and learning about such innovative projects in a province that’s so close to my heart.

The natural resources sector in Canada contributes twenty percent to our country’s GDP, and provides 1.8 million jobs to Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast. On average, over the last 5 years, natural resource firms have contributed approximately $26 billion per year in revenue for all levels of government. Many of those employed in the sector are from Atlantic Canada. In fact, while I visited Nova Scotia and New Brunswick earlier this month, I saw a disproportionate number of Alberta license plates. My family told me that while it’s so nice to have family members and friends home, they’re struggling to find jobs and to provide for their families; the downturn in the energy sector, which is having devastating impacts in my riding of Lakeland, isn’t just isolated to that industry, and it isn’t just an “Alberta problem”. It’s impacting all of Canada, particularly those from the Atlantic provinces, because it is people from the Maritimes and Newfoundland ‎and Labrador who have contributed so much to energy development and to economic opportunities in communities across Alberta.

Decades of responsible natural resources and energy development unlocked Alberta’s opportunities, providing jobs for Albertans and for Canadians right across the country, economic spin off opportunities in other sectors and across Canada, world-leading technology, operational expertise, and regulatory best practices that are exported around the globe, and billions of dollars in revenue for multiple levels of government, and for other provinces. That revenue provides programs and services we value in every community in every province. Through both conventional natural resources development and the development of new energy technology, Nova Scotia can do this too.

The former Conservative government invested $25 million from the Clean Energy Fund into the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy. The new leading research facility near Parrsboro represents the future of energy innovation. Tidal energy may be a competitive source of clean energy, and this project has great potential for both Nova Scotia, and for export to the United States.

I was also fortunate to visit the street named after “Missy Nan” in Dartmouth’s Burnside Industrial Park. It was incredibly special for me to see this tribute to her in person, and to know that she truly made a difference in Dartmouth through her fierce advocacy and unrivaled determination. There are a number of MPs who represent ridings in Nova Scotia who now know I am Eileen Stubbs’ granddaughter, and they share stories about her. Although our politics are different, they seem to have a soft spot for me, and credit the “fire in my belly” to her. I concede they are probably right about our similarities in personality, and in approach towards advocating for people we represent.

As I look back on my trip fondly, I wonder if my grandmother, when she was the mayor of the “City of Lakes”, would have ever thought that one day her first generation Albertan granddaughter would visit her hometown as the Member of Parliament for the rural Alberta riding called Lakeland.

I know one thing is for certain. Eileen Stubbs was determined to do the best she could for people, particularly those who really needed the help. Although she wasn’t partisan, doing the right thing always mattered to her. I hope this approach will always guide me as I represent my constituents in rural Alberta and for Canada’s responsible natural resources workers across the country.