Oil Sands: From Debate to Dialogue


Canada’s oil sands are at a critical point in their development. Economic opportunity and  environmental necessity are combining to generate real concern that “business as usual” is not a viable path forward. How do we move forward then on sustainable development of the oil sands?

In the late summer of 2010, we brought together a small group of thoughtful Canadians in Fernie, B.C. from industry, civil society, governments, and the environmental community to consider this question and talk about the prospects for a new approach to oil sands development. One based on dialogue not debate; one that brings interests together to consider viable, sustainable paths forward. Is this needed? Is this possible? How would it work?

The conclusions were clear and meaningful. Such a dialogue is needed and it is needed now. Indeed, there are risks in not proceeding. The dialogue needs to be comprehensive but also focused so it can lead to tangible results. In fact, three dialogue areas were  identified: (1) regional oil sands performance, (2) Canada’s clean energy strategy, and (3) Canada’s climate change policy. All implicate the sustainable development of the oil sands, directly and indirectly.

Based on what we heard during and after Fernie, we recommend that oil sands performance be designated the priority dialogue. Dialogue processes that allow for more productive exchanges of views and ideas are also needed on the other areas because they are important and inter-related to overall progress on this issue.

We believe our collective discussion has opened a new window of opportunity for a positive, Canadian dialogue on the sustainable development of the oil sands. We need to seize this opportunity.

We wish to thank all participants for their time, insights, and willingness to participate in this event and their demonstrated commitment to finding constructive solutions.


David McLaughlin
President and CEO
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy

David Mitchell
President and CEO Public Policy Forum