Are Canadian banks undermining national prosperity?

What happens when the banks follow ideologies and policies that hurt a sector central to Canada’s economy and prosperity? Over the past several years, shareholder proposals ↗ calling for the banks to stop all investments in oil and gas have been presented by activist shareholders and well-funded non-profit organizations.

To counter these, this year, InvestNow stepped up ↗ and presented our own shareholder proposals ↗ to three Canadian banks, asking for explicit commitments to continue to invest in and finance Canadian oil and gas and to step away from policies that hurt the sector. This is the first time shareholder proposals of this nature have been presented to Canadian banks.

The shareholder proposal is one of the most common and most powerful tools available to influence corporate policy. Shareholders submit proposals for consideration at a corporation’s annual general meeting, allowing them to have a say in board direction, management positions, and policies.

I believe strongly that our banks cannot be part of a scheme designed to strangle a sector of vital importance, not only to our citizens but to the democratic world. The Canadian oil and gas sector fuels our economy. It provides livelihoods to hundreds of thousands across Canada who work in the sector and to the millions – that is, all of us – who depend on it in so many ways.

Encouraging divestment puts our economy at risk. Moreover, it will result in the growing demand for oil and gas around the world being met by other less democratic, less environmentally responsible suppliers.

The dogmatic narrative that eliminating our oil and gas sector will somehow “help” Canada and reduce CO2 emissions couldn’t be more wrong. Over eighty percent of the world’s primary energy needs are met by oil, natural gas, and coal. Global demand is increasing, not decreasing. The International Energy Agency just reported that world oil demand is scaling record highs.

If our banks go down the divestment path, Canada will lose its ability to influence the global energy conversation, and we will see direct hardship for everyday Canadians. Our economy will be hobbled, industry will shut down, people will lose their jobs, and energy poverty will grow.

Canadians live the way we do because we have one of the most productive, innovative, and responsible energy industries in the world. Our shareholder proposals called on the banks to come onside and signal to the investment community and the world that they are committed to the Canadian oil and gas sector. In fact, they have an economic and moral imperative to do so.

Nothing happens without oil and gas. This sector is essential for the functioning of the economy, for jobs, for innovation – and for global emissions reductions.

InvestNow will continue fighting for investment in Canada’s oil and gas sector through shareholder proposals and other work.

By Gina Pappano

Gina Pappano is executive director of  InvestNow Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to demonstrating that investing in Canada’s resource sectors helps Canada and the world. This commentary was supplied by the Canadian Energy Centre, a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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