‘Family focus’ in oil patch – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – October 26, 2011)

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In meetings with oil and gas executives and the media in Calgary last week, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark spoke about how energy development in her province fits well with her family-focused agenda.

Family agenda? The typical oil pitch – whether from a politician or an industry executive – tends to boast about the benefits to Canada of being an energy superpower, expands on the efforts to shrink the environmental footprint, warns about the need to diversify markets. It is loaded with jargon such as “environmental stewardship,” “supply mix” and “portfolio of opportunities.”

“Families are the most important structure in any healthy society” is the way the B.C. Premier chose to explain why she wants more energy projects in her province. “I recognize that for families to be able to do a good job, they need to have a job. All the wealth-creators I met here in Alberta are interested in creating wealth, but are also interested in creating jobs. When jobs are created, when economic activity is enabled, it’s good for families.”

Welcome to a new era for Canada’s energy-driven economy, in which recent elections/leadership contests have put women in charge of three out of the four richest energy provinces: Ms. Clark in B.C., Alison Redford in Alberta and Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There is great hope that the trio’s inclusive, communicative style will mean progress for the male-dominated sector.

The energy sector’s expansion push has met with resistance from the environmental movement, First Nations, international politicians and communities.

“There is potential here for a fresh approach,” said Michael Prince, Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. “This could be an opportunity for the industry to be more effective at managing challenges that aren’t going away.”

“We can do it the tough way with lock-ins and protests and arrests, or we can do it in ways that aren’t bogged down for decades that postpone and delay projects. These women provide an opportunity.”

Among those cheering for the group is Kathy Sendall, one of the few women who rose to a senior executive role in the oil industry. Having women in power can only be helpful at a time of so much tension between the general population and the sector, she said.

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post/Financial Post website: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Family+focus+patch/5606469/story.html