Mario Lévesque

‘Quebec is open for business’

Mario Lévesque has one word for oil and gas companies looking for new development opportunities. Quebec.

Mario Lévesque has one word for oil and gas companies looking for new development opportunities.

Quebec.

The president of the Oil and Gas Services Association of Quebec thinks there’s a promising future for hydrocarbon production in his province, and he’s urging energy companies in Alberta to take advantage.

“There are two messages: Quebec is open for business, and I want a channel of communication and I want people from Alberta to see us as a partner.”

Lévesque and about a dozen business leaders and municipal officials from Quebec are in Alberta to learn about the industry. On Tuesday, they spent time at Canyon Technical Services’ field office in Burnt Lake Business Park.

Françoise Bertrand, president and CEO of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec, is part of the delegation.

“She’s probably the most powerful and influential woman in Quebec,” said Lévesque. “Françoise can call the prime minister — she’s that kind of person.”

Lévesque said Bertrand and many others in Quebec want to see a strong oil and gas industry in their province.

“We need to develop our natural resources because Quebec is in a bad situation regarding debt,” he said. “There are a bunch of people in Quebec, me included, who are not proud to receive transfer payments.”

Lévesque is encouraged by his province’s new Liberal government, which announced two months ago that it would conduct environmental studies as a first step toward tapping into Quebec’s oil and gas reserves. There are also plans to drill a number of stratigraphic wells on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to obtain core samples.

“Actually, there are three wells planned to be fracked next spring on Anticosti Island,” said Lévesque.

In 2011, Quebec’s then Parti Québécois government imposed a moratorium on fracking in the province, pending environmental studies.

“For investors, it was kind of harsh,” said Lévesque of the impact on energy companies.

He noted that a recent survey by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec found that 72 per of Quebecers support oil development. But it has to be done safely, he added, and that’s where Alberta can provide guidance.

An oilpatch veteran himself, Lévesque considers Alberta’s regulation of its oil and gas industry to be among the best in the world. His current delegation is gaining insights into that regulatory regime.

“We need to have good regulation in Quebec too.”

The group is also gaining insights into the energy sector that should help them speak out about oil and gas development in their home province, said Lévesque.

“Those people believe in the development and want to become advocates for us in Quebec.”

That support is important, he said, because others — including members of the Quebec media — are vocally opposed to hydrocarbon development.

“You just need one person in the media who is against something to influence a lot of people and make them believe that it’s bigger than it is really.”

The benefits of a thriving oil and gas industry to Quebec would be huge, said Lévesque. He estimates 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in short term, plus the resulting royalties.

Lévesque said a number of energy companies have remained in Quebec, but he hopes to see more.

“Now is the time to look at Quebec again as a place to do business.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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