Neil Young’s oil sands rants get dose of reality from Western Canada – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – January 17, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The more Neil Young moves out West with his rants against the oil industry, the more he comes face to face with reality, and it’s not a pretty encounter.

The rock star may get away with comparing Fort McMurray to Hiroshima in places like Washington, far removed from oil operations. But in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where oil fields are part of the landscape and thousands of aboriginal peoples work and profit from the oil industry, his views are so out of touch they’re embarrassing.

Indeed, if Mr. Young’s intention was to raise awareness with his Honour the Treaties tour that there is opposition by some aboriginal groups to growing oil sands development, what he’s getting is a frosty snub. On the heels of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall calling the singer’s Hiroshima comparison “insensitive and ignorant of the facts,” the Calgary-based oil industry fired some low blows of its own Thursday.

“Every Canadian has the right to an opinion, and in the case of Mr. Young’s opinions on the oil sands, I would suggest that he has a democratic right to be wrong,” Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a press conference in Calgary Thursday, displaying a new directness in addressing criticism unsupported by facts.

“The fact of the matter is that our industry is proud of the long and enduring and positive relationships that we have with Canada’s aboriginal people in many parts of the country. First Nations and our industry are neighbours, collaborators, business partners and in many cases, friends.”

Oil sands companies provide aboriginal businesses with contracts worth more than $1.8-billion in revenue per year. In a region with a relatively small aboriginal population, more than 1,700 aboriginal employees work directly for oil sands operations.

Oil sands companies regularly step up to fund community-building programs – school and youth programs, celebrations, cultural events, literacy, community projects and other initiatives. Consultation with aboriginals about all aspects of the business is taken seriously.

Industry is so confident it’s on the right side of this story it has invited Mr. Young and Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation chief Allan Adam to meet and discuss a better way forward when the tour arrives in Calgary on the weekend.

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