Gavin Semple, the Chairman of Brandt Industries.

Brandt Industries Chairman Gavin Semple ‘It’s such a no brainer, especially Energy East’

September 18, 2018 11:30 am
Kevin Weedmark

World-Spectator Editor Kevin Weedmark spoke with Brandt Industries chairman Gavin Semple—one of Saskatchewan’s most successful business owners—last week about the need for pipelines and the the town and RM of Moosomin’s efforts on Energy East. The complete interview follows.

Why did you decide to reach out on Energy East?

I listened to Sinc on the Gormley show talking about Energy East.

We’ve been aware of this for quite some time and we’re very cognizant of the economic benefit that pipelines bring to the country and in particular to Saskatchewan, Alberta, all the western provinces.

Part of our business at Brandt is working with pipeline contractors and providing the equipment they use to put the pipes in the ground, so there is a very direct connection between us and pipelines.

From my perspective it’s just such a no brainer, especially Energy East but also Kinder Morgan. It’s all well trodden ground—you’ve heard from others no doubt.

We currently buy 800,000 barrels a day from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, other countries, where we could be buying that from our own provinces and Western Canada, so Energy East makes great sense.

The economic benefit is not only in the construction of the pipelines but the ongoing economic benefit once they’re complete in getting the producers the world price instead of a discounted price.

Everybody benefits. The communities benefit, the government benefits in terms of taxes. There is a huge benefit to employment and employees.

I’ve been very interested in this whole subject generally and others that affect the economy of the country and the economy of where we do business.

We do business across Canada but primarily in the four western provinces. We also have businesses in the Maritimes.
The fact that we haven’t been able to build a pipeline to take our resource commodities to a market other than the U.S. is a sad commentary.

When I heard that Sinc was talking about the possibility of reviving or renewing the interest in taking another look at Energy East it made eminent good sense to me.

I’m not real close to the issues around Energy East, I don’t know what the level of interest would be for TransCanada or somebody else wanting to revive it and take another shot at it, especially after the negative experience they had in the first go around, so I’m just in the early stages of inquiry myself.

That’s why I reached out to Sinc and since then I’ve talked to other organizations like SARM and SUMA and the Chambers, trying to get a reading as to what is the level of interest in trying to revive Energy East.

Are you hopeful that something at the grassroots level like this—starting out with just the local municipality in one community that would certainly be impacted—are you hopeful that, that can bring this discussion to the fore again?

I’m hopeful, but I say that without knowing at this point what all the barriers might be.

I do know a lot of great ideas and great projects start with a small modest beginning.

I’ve seen that picture before and how a relatively small group of energized proponents of a cause can bring it to fruition, and this one may be one of those, but at this stage, Kevin, I’m in the early exploratory stages of trying to assess it and determine what can we do.

If I didn’t view it from 40,000 feet as being such an obvious thing that we should be doing as a country, then I perhaps wouldn’t spend time and effort and energy pursuing it, but it just seems to me such an obvious beneficial project that why wouldn’t we pursue it.

In general, from your experience in business in Saskatchewan, how important are pipelines to Saskatchewan?

Well I think they are immensely important because they help us get our products to market.

I’m not in the oil business per se but our customers who are largely contractors in the heavy equipment area are very close to it.

Better pipeline access would be very beneficial to them, of course, and when it is beneficial to them it is beneficial to us. That’s just our company, but we are one of many, many companies that would benefit.

You can’t help but think this would benefit the province as a whole and in fact beyond Saskatchewan.

You are obviously an extremely busy person and there are a lot of important issues. What is so important to this issue that made you reach out to Sinc, and you said you’ve reached out to some others in the mean time. Why is this issue so important to you that you are actually taking some time and devoting some time to it?

I look at it this way: Given the challenges that we face right now with pipelines period—the Trans-Mountain being the most visible one right now and it’s had difficulties—it’s absolutely necessary that we get pipelines built to get our products to market for the country, for the province, for the benefit of businesses and employees and others.

This is critical, so hopefully they get Trans-Mountain sorted out, but even if they sort out the issues around that and if that proceeds, that doesn’t mean that Energy East isn’t equally important, given the fact that we’re continually buying huge amounts of oil from other countries around the world when we could be buying it from ourselves, from the Western provinces.

Both are really important and I just see the economic benefit of this. Sinc was sharing with me the economic benefit of the pipeline even to a small community like the RM of Moosomin.

You can multiply that hundreds of times across the country and look at the impact in the construction of it and the ongoing revenue generated once it’s in place.

In your discussions so far, talking to Sinc and the other people you’ve reached out to, what have you learned about this issue so far?

I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount of support there is. Virtually among all of the groups that I have talked to there is a huge level of support.

There are always questions about what is the feasibility of this, like how interested would TransCanada be or whoever is actually going to do the project, because it takes a lot of capital, and given the uncertainty today in Canada on major projects, the question in my mind is how likely is it that the major player that you need is prepared to take a chance, invest the billions of dollars with a huge uncertainty around approvals and permits and everything that is required to actually complete it.

There is a lot of uncertainty around in the country right now and that’s a sad commentary in itself.