Suncor CEO Rich Kruger is feeling the heat. Not from the catastrophic wildfires, the thousands forced from their homes or even the toxic fumes of a climate catastrophe spreading across North America.
Nope, Kruger is feeling the heat of public attention. Earlier this summer, as Canadians worried about the urgent need to address a burning planet, Kruger bragged to investors about his "urgent" plan to pump up Suncor's profits by walking back commitments on the clean energy transition. This, after the company boasted $70-billion in profit in the last three years.
Given the nightmare of fire and smoke confronting Canadians, his comments seemed so out of touch. So indifferent.
Not surprising there was backlash.
This is why I requested Kruger come to Parliament. People have a right to know whether Suncor is willing to be a good corporate citizen in dealing with the energy transition and the climate disaster. After all, if ever there was an "all-hands-on-deck moment" — this is it.
Kruger's response to the backlash has been to pen an editorial in the Calgary Herald. There wasn't a single word about the climate crisis. Sure, he talked about "sustainability," but it wasn't about the planet's sustainability, it was the financial sustainability (profitability) of his oil operations. He opined that the public backlash may have stemmed from personal "bias" or being too "quick to judge."
I admit I was gobsmacked when I read that. This summer, I dealt with families in Fort Albany and Kashechewan in James Bay threatened by unprecedented wildfires on the sub-Arctic peatlands.
As we scrambled to arrange military Hercules planes to get them to safety, residents were forced to put loved ones into canoes to stay ahead of the fire.
Were their attitudes about the climate crisis fuelled by "bias"?
.@CharlieAngusNDP wants @suncor CEO Rich Kruger come to Parliament to explain if he's willing to be a good corporate citizen in dealing with the energy transition and the climate disaster. #ClimateEmergency #cdnpoli
Were they being too quick to judge the catastrophic nature of the burning?
Is it the same for the families across this country who were forced to flee from fires, floods and hurricanes with their possessions and pets?
Kruger quipped: "Don't be judgmental, be curious," a reference to his fave TV show Ted Lasso.
Mr. Kruger, Canadians are very curious. For starters, curious about your detachment from the obvious connection between increased fossil fuel profits and a destabilized climate. And curious as to whether Suncor would be willing to divert some of those massive profits to help mitigate the damages your industry has caused. Ordinary Canadians have been forced to assume the risks of an industry unwilling to pull back from the 1.5-degree danger line. Shouldn't those assuming the risk be eligible for some of the profit?
I am curious about your comments that you are targeting "work." The Alberta oilpatch has lost nearly 50,000 jobs in the last 10 years. In fact, your company fired 1,500 this year. No doubt, switching to automation will be great for the bottom line of offshore investors, but what's in it for workers and their families?
But most of all, I am curious about Suncor's corporate culture shift. Just last year, I had an excellent conversation about diversification with Suncor executive Martha Hall Findlay and her sustainability team.
She assured me Suncor was committed to being a good corporate partner in moving Canada toward the energy transition. Those folks are all gone. And gone with them is the $730 million in wind and solar assets divested from the company. You said you weren't interested in "throwing money" at such projects.
And yet, the latest report by the International Energy Agency is warning companies like Suncor that the end of Big Oil is imminent: "New large-scale fossil fuel projects not only carry major climate risks, but also financial risks for the companies and their investors."
Compare this to a recent report by Calgary Economic Development that identified $61 billion in opportunities and the potential for 170,000 new jobs in Alberta from the clean-tech revolution. I am curious why Suncor, an energy leader with enormous resources and expertise, would prefer to double down in the face of the climate disaster unfolding.
I note that Kruger is a former vice-president of ExxonMobil, the company that produced the best scientific data on the clear connection between fossil fuel burning and the climate crisis.
An internal memo from 1982 warned that if steps weren't taken to limit emissions, the damage to the planet "may not be reversible, and little could be done to correct the situation." But that memo was suppressed, and Exxon executives undertook a massive campaign of climate disinformation.
We are now living the reality of that memo.
Yes, Mr. Kruger, I am very curious about your views on these issues. Very curious indeed.
Charlie Angus has been the member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay since 2004. He is the NDP's critic for natural resources and Indigenous youth. He has published eight books on northern and resource issues, including his most recent book, Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals/Birthplace of a Mining Superpower. He is the lead singer of the band Grievous Angels. He has won multiple awards for his work in politics and social activism. He is also a contributing author to the Centre for International Governance Innovation.