Lionel Railton – IUOE Canadian Regional Director

Oil produced by Canadian workers, or by dictators? You pick.

No matter how we look at it, oil is a necessity for the global economy. Predictions for demand will always vary, but one thing is clear: oil is going to be part of our lives for a very, very long time.

The International Energy Agency predicts strong growth in oil demand right through to 2022. Beyond that, one group of analysts at McKinsey & Company sees oil demand continuing to grow through to 2050.

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And we depend on it for more than just energy. A litany of products we rely on in our daily lives, in turn, depend on oil. So, oil is a necessity.

Therefore, the real question is this: where will we get it from? The choice is between Canada, and countries that do not treat their workers nearly as well. I know what my choice is.

A reason our country is one of the greatest is because we protect workers’ rights. On a ranking of the world’s best workforces – measuring the experience, talent, knowledge, and training of a country’s population – Canada came in the top ten.

Now, compare that to some of Canada’s oil-exporting competitors. Saudi Arabia was ranked 39th. Iran? 94th. Russia was 51st and Kuwait was 59th, while Nigeria came in at 114th.

It gets worse.

The International Trade Union Confederation conducts an annual ranking of the world’s worst countries for workers. Among the worst offenders? Many of the same countries we currently import oil from, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates .

Step outside the prism of workers’ rights, and let’s look at human rights more broadly. Canada is an excellent 10th on the UN’s Human Development Index, looking at factors like life expectancy at birth and expected years of schooling. Again, our competitors lag terribly: Nigeria comes 152nd, Iran comes 69th, and Russia comes in 49th.

But it goes beyond bad rankings on global surveys. Trade unions aren’t even legal in Saudi Arabia. Collective bargaining is banned, strikes are banned, public demonstrations are banned… the avenues workers need to make their voices heard are all banned in this awful dictatorship. Migrant workers which fuel the Saudi economy are tortured and effectively have no rights, working long hours in cramped living conditions. It’s nothing short of disgusting – and this was our country’s number one source of imported oil in 2016.

We need oil, but we have an opportunity to support workers’ rights at the same time. It’s about time we built more pipelines that can bring Canadian oil to every corner of the country, and support the work of unionized workers from coast to coast to coast.

Canada has more than enough oil, so let’s stop bringing it in from countries who ignore the values our country is built on.

Lionel Railton – IUOE Canadian Regional Director