As Prices Surge, a Thriving Oil and Gas Sector Can Help Maintain Access to Affordable Living

by | November 2023

This article originally appeared in the National Post.

As people across the country grapple with stagnant wages and higher prices for housing and essential goods, there is an ongoing conversation about energy transformation and how it is impacting the Canadian economy, affordability, and our quality of life. Women’s views play an important role in this conversation, but their important insights are often washed out by louder voices.

In fact, it seems that there is an important shift taking place among women who are concerned with economic and sustainability issues — a shift that will influence Canadian policy going forward, but which is only visible to those who take the time to listen.

A new survey conducted by Leger on behalf of Canada Powered by Women found that Canadian engaged women who follow the news and are informed on politics, are considering how to balance an affordable standard of living with the realities of energy prices and the policies affecting them. They said they were already dealing with financial challenges including making a tradeoff between their energy usage and spending decisions. Of the 1,200 women surveyed, 78 per cent prioritize an affordable standard of living for all Canadians by supporting the production and distribution of Canadian oil and gas.

“The survey findings highlight the persistent challenges that women nationwide encounter when striking a balance between affordability, the economy and everyone’s desire for an ever-cleaner environment and they relish the opportunity to express their views, especially anonymously, on Canadian energy transformation,” said Canada Powered by Women board chair Sue Riddell Rose. “This reinforces the pressing requirement for platforms like Canada Powered by Women, to be that voice of many to elevate and amplify women’s voices and offer a crucial avenue for shaping the narrative surrounding one of the most important elements of our lives and Canada’s economy — energy.”

Gasoline is the highest average monthly cost per household of women surveyed, $237 on average, and according to Statistics Canada most Canadians use natural gas-powered systems to heat their homes. Natural gas accounts for more than 60 per cent of the energy used in the average home, including heating to stay warm and gas to run other appliances, including stovetops for cooking. The rising price of gas is impacting Canadians who are seeing their heating bills drastically increase, some up to 30 per cent in 2022.

Oil and gas keep the country, its people and our economy, running — and it has since the very beginning of the modern Canada.

Canada Powered by Women

Photo by Katya Wolf, Pexels

A history of production and prosperity

Canada’s oil and gas industry has a long history. The first well was drilled in 1858 and more than 160 years later, Canada produces nearly 5 million barrels a day of oil, making it the fourth-largest producer in the world. It’s also the sixth-largest producer of natural gas, which can be turned into liquified natural gas (LNG) to be exported globally. In 2019, the oil and gas industry brought in $139.2 billion, or 6.4 per cent of the total Canadian economy.

This has brought prosperity to millions of Canadians, and the positive economic impacts of a strong energy industry in Canada can be seen and felt across the country.

Canadian women seem to know the importance of this history, as they support oil and gas production as a way to fuel our economy, directly and indirectly create jobs across the country, and generate taxes, royalty and revenues, all reducing their everyday costs, ensuring their own energy security and sustaining their standard of living. More than half of the women surveyed indicated that they are not willing to make sacrifices that would negatively impact their own prosperity and ability to provide for their families — in fact, 78 per cent said that they don’t want to pay more taxes to make up for the positive contributions lost by reduced oil and gas production.

That doesn’t mean they’re willing to sacrifice sustainability initiatives or ignore climate change, however; when asked, 77 per cent of surveyed women said they were willing to support LNG production. They see LNG as a cleaner energy alternative that not only reduces carbon dioxide emissions but is also less harmful to the environment than other non-renewable alternatives. The support for LNG rises further when they learn more about it.

“These survey numbers tell a compelling story, and one that will continue to speak to an increasing number of Canadians,” said Paige Schoenfeld, senior vice president at Leger. “Women are already making tradeoffs for themselves and their families to accommodate the affordability crisis, but they aren’t willing to continue to pay more because of decreased Canadian oil and gas development, whether it’s increased taxes or higher energy costs.”

Canada Powered by Women

Photo by Tiger Lily, Pexels

Balancing prosperity and sustainability

Still, the same survey results also confirm that Canadian women are engaged in sustainability issues and do not advocate for a complete abandonment of environmental responsibility — far from it.

According to the results, Canada’s women believe that supporting a mix of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy, including LNG, can help secure energy security and simultaneously boost the economy while also maintaining a commitment to cleaner energy options. Survey data showed women’s support for continued oil and gas production further increased if innovation and technologies like carbon capture can help partially eliminate emissions.

Every dollar that is spent on energy has an impact on the ability of women to provide for their families without making huge sacrifices in their quality of life. The health of the Canadian energy industry is tied up with Canada’s overall economic fortunes more deeply than many people realize, and that’s especially true when people are forced to make tough decisions to accommodate rising costs due to inflation in prices.

“Women want to participate in discussions about the prosperity of the Canadian economy that comes from a robust energy sector,” said Canada Powered by Women, CEO, Tracey Bodnarchuk. “We offer a safe and trusted platform where critical conversations can happen and women’s insights can be shared, discussed, and integrated into decision-making processes. The significance of these survey findings lies in the empowerment of women who have definite opinions and valuable insights to offer when they are simply asked for their opinion.”

Women’s participation in the ongoing dialogue about Canada’s energy transformation will be fundamental to building a more inclusive and sustainable future.