The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) began a new era of government relations with their first visit to Ottawa at the end of October.
Led by CAODC president Mark Scholz, a delegation of CAODC member company representatives touched down in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, October 23 to discuss issues concerning the drilling and service rig segment of the oil and gas industry service sector with members of parliament.
“We represent an important sector within the upstream oil and gas industry,” said Scholz. “And it’s important for us to ensure that our federal public policymakers are aware of the some of the issues that we’re dealing with in our industry.
“But, more importantly, to ensure that when they develop public policy and are making regulations that affect our business that they understand what’s important for industry and how to make it more efficient and more successful within Canada.”
If the CAODC is going to accomplish that goal, Scholz added, they must also show government that the industry is available to answer their questions, and not just those asked by the governments of Canada’s westernmost provinces.
“This was the first of its kind for our association,” said Scholz, noting that CAODC’s government relations focus has been primarily Alberta and Saskatchewan in the past.
“We’ve expanded our government relations,” he continued. “We’re meeting with folks in Manitoba now. In fact, Quebec as well – we’re sitting down and participating with the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (APGQ) and meeting with industry leaders out there. So, we’re really expanding our outreach.
“Because, if you think about the shale gas revolution or the shale gas potential, it’s really now covering many different pockets of Canada that we’ve never really been in.”
Scholz admits that the heart of Canada’s oil and gas industry will always be in the West, but he also mentioned that emerging opportunities in places like Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick is creating a need to expand the communications work being done by the CAODC, which must now include visits to Ottawa.
“What I hope we get out of it is just our members of parliament have a better understanding about the opportunities there are within our industry, but also within the overall upstream oil and gas industry, and that they will look at the drilling community as an extremely integral and critical piece of the oil and gas infrastructure on the service sector [side],” said Scholz.
“And I think we accomplished that,” he added. “This is the first of it’s kind. We fully anticipate doing this on a routine basis. At least – on a minimum – an annual basis.
“We’ll be doing this again in November in 2013.”
Not surprisingly, the much publicized labour shortage in the oil and gas industry was high on the list of topics discussed during the Ottawa trip.
“That is a very difficult challenge for us,” said Scholz.
Scholz remarked that CAODC is working closely with Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney to ensure that immigration and temporary foreign worker policies are helping the service sector to address that labour challenge.
“Ensuring that our immigration system looks for … immigrants that are inline with some of the economic issues that we’re faced with,” he explained. “Looking at possibly making it easier to attract and obtain temporary foreign workers.”
The other part of that equation is attracting more Canadians to the oil patch.
“How,” said Scholz, “do we bring people from Ontario and Quebec and some of these underemployed areas of the country? How do we get them to where the jobs are? Obviously, right now, we have more jobs than we have people out here in the west. And so how do we get those people out here?”
An associated issue is that workers are already traveling from Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador on a regular basis to spend two weeks in the oil patch of western Canada before returning home again until their next tour of duty.
"Rig activity spans from British Columbia to Manitoba, but the workforce is drawn from all over the country,” said Scholz. “A driller can make his home anywhere because a rig is always moving to new locations and the work rotation for a rig crew needs to accommodate travel time."
Government representatives took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions about industry standards.
“That was something that we were happy to answer,” said Scholz.
“An incredible story of achievement and success,” he added.
Scholz points to CAODC milestones such as the introduction of recommended practices for overhead equipment that were accepted by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety as industry standards in 1994.
“We have our training standards on the rig tech side,” he continued. “We have our journeyman red seal trade for our drillers, which standardizes training measurement tools across the industry. And then on the service rig side we have a similar competency-based program that we mandate our members to establish.”