Residents of the Red Deer area are less positive about the oil and gas industry than their counterparts in other petroleum-rich regions of Western Canada, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Petroleum Services Association of Canada.
Ipsos-Reid interviewed 1,152 people in a dozen oil and gas regions across the Western Canadian sedimentary basin — including the areas northwest of Red Deer and around Rocky Mountain House.
Fifty-eight per cent said they viewed the oil and gas industry in a favourable light, the same response collected for the Red Deer area — which consisted of College Heights, Blackfalds, Lacombe, Ponoka, Hobbema, Clive, Tees and Meniak. In the case of the Rocky region — which encompassed that town plus Caroline, Sundre, Leslieville, Condor, Alhambra, James River Bridge and Stauffer — the figure was 77 per cent.
Asked about the oil and gas companies working in their communities, 59 per cent of respondents replied positively. The level of satisfaction in the Red Deer area was slightly lower, at 55 per cent, but in the Rocky region it was 73 per cent.
In response to a question about whether the oil and gas industry is believable, 79 per cent of survey participants said it was. In the Red Deer area, 73 per cent gave the same answer, while in Rocky 92 per cent thought the industry was believable.
Complete survey results were not released, but PSAC said in a news release that 78 per cent of respondents from the Red Deer area agreed that the oil and gas industry provides local jobs, 77 per cent said it contributes financially to the community, 61 per cent said it participates in the community, and 63 per cent thought it treats residents with respect.
In the case of the Rocky region, 96 per cent acknowledged that the industry generates local jobs, 89 per cent saw a financial contribution to the community and 84 per cent felt the oil and gas sector has a positive relationship with the community.
“Generally speaking, we’re very happy with the results we got, given that we went into this thinking everyone hated the oil and gas industry,” said PSAC president Roger Soucy. “It’s obvious that, certainly as it pertains to people who live with the oil and gas industry every day, that’s not the case.
“Generally speaking, people are positive and they understand what the industry’s about and they understand the economic benefits that it brings.”
That said, Soucy also acknowledged that there are issues his industry needs to address if it wants to build and maintain good relations with the people it affects.
“This is a beginning effort on our part to deal with the social licence to operate question.”
There are plans to develop a public website by early next year where answers to common questions about the oil and gas industry will be available, and opportunities for public feedback provided. PSAC is also helping to encourage industry workers to engage in practices like slowing down to reduce dust and noise, driving safely, and scheduling operations to limit traffic at peak times.
Environmental protection is also an area of public concern that PSAC hopes to address, said Soucy.
“The fact is, our industry is already working hard to reduce its environmental footprint, but we haven’t been saying much about that. We are going to start communicating more proactively about our environmental initiatives, while we continue to conduct environmental research, develop and use advanced technologies, and implement best practices.”
The Ipsos-Reid survey, which was conducted by telephone June 8 to 21, included more than 135 communities in Alberta, northeast British Columbia and southern Saskatchewan. Ipsos-Reid said that given the size of the survey, its aggregate results would be considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
PSAC is a national trade association that represents more than 270 companies in the service, supply and manufacturing sectors of the upstream petroleum industry.