“Supporter Spotlight” features Canadians with a passion for Canada’s Natural Resource sector. Our spotlight this month is Gina Pappano, an Executive Director at Invest Now who is passionate about her family. Click here to read her story.
Canada Action: Gina, thank you so much for taking the time today. You work for “Invest Now”, a non-profit organization that encourages companies to invest in Canadian Natural Resources. How did you become involved with the organization?
Gina: I worked at the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture exchange for 15 years. I was head of the market intelligence department and as a result I know the value of Canadian resources to our Capital markets; mining, oil & gas, agriculture and forestry - but especially oil & gas and mining.
When I left Toronto Stock Exchange I started following the divestment movement that was taking place in Canada and noticed some universities were starting to talk about it. They were being approached by activists who were asking them to divest from Canadian oil & gas or all oil & gas for that matter. I think this is the wrong approach and I wanted to do something about it. I don't think people are hearing the other side of why Canadian resources are very important to our economy.
Some of the most responsible companies are coming out of Canada and the divestment movement does nothing to affect emissions. It's a political movement more than an environmental movement.
Canada Action: What is divestment and how does it affect us directly? What are the consequences of divestment?
Gina: Divestment is the movement to stop endowment funds, institutional funds and pension funds from investing in fossil fuels and oil & gas shares of public companies. The movement was started by an organization out of the United States and they've organized themselves very well and very powerfully. The problem with divestment is that it's a blanket initiative and it doesn't look at companies from an ESG (Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance) perspective. It just eliminates an entire sector from the investment pool.
There could be a great company that is doing a lot to decrease emissions and they will not be looked at because of this blanket initiative to divest from all fossil fuel companies. This affects Canada because our Canadian economy relies so much on resources and especially oil & gas. Billions of dollars are going into the government coffers because of the oil & gas sector.
The divestment movement is trying to starve the oil & gas companies of public capital and this will cause investors to go find a friendlier environment to invest in and this affects how many companies are doing business in Canada. It will affect jobs and have a direct trickle-down effect because there won't be as many tax dollars going into the government and in turn public services that we get like education and hospitals.
Canada Action: One of the general misconceptions about divestment is that by divesting there will be a decrease in the demand of natural resources when in fact, divestment does not reduce demand.
Gina: No. Divestment does nothing to reduce the demand or emissions. It's an empty political statement really. If demand is there, supply will meet it somehow. And so that will mean going outside of Canada to countries that are not as responsible as Canadian companies.
Canada Action: What needs to be done in order for this misconception to change?
Gina: Well, at Invest Now we've started to write letters because we need to get the message out to the Board of Governors that are making these decisions without hearing the other side. Right now they're not hearing our messages they're only hearing the organized groups that are at every university and saying “divest divest divest” and nobody is saying - no, hold on - we need to invest! We’re in Canada, it is wrong to just eliminate an entire sector. This is not ESG investing and university Board of Governors are being asked to divest from a sector that is very important to Canada and Canadians. A sector who also happens to fund universities!
Canada Action: You mention universities. There seems to be a movement amongst education institutions - specifically colleges and universities to divest. Why do you think the movement has gained traction on campuses?
Gina: I think because the movement has been very well organized, almost like a playbook. In the United States for example, you’ll have a group of students protest in front of the president's office or at football games. Yet there is no one on the other side speaking up. And if you really look at the universities, which is what we've done at Invest Now, you'll see that the donors oftentimes don't even know what's happening.
If you look at the major donors, most of them or a lot of them, their companies rely on oil & gas to do their business or they’ve made their money from oil & gas directly or indirectly. So what we found is that a Board of Governors, which consists of a very mixed bag of people, is going into these meetings and only hearing a one-sided argument for divestment. They think they're doing a great job in terms of the environment and emissions reductions but nobody is speaking from the other side. And this movement started with universities and now it’s spreading to pension funds and it’s difficult to stop it because these groups have been in existence for quite a while and no one has been advocating for the other side.
Canada Action: Why do you think all Canadians should care about Canadian natural resource development? Is there any kind of message that you want to tell Canadians reading this?
Gina: Canadians should care because a lot of the funds used for our services like education and hospitals, comes from our natural resource sectors. We need to build our industries and oil & gas is one of our biggest tax dollar contributors over the years.
Canada also adheres to stringent environmental social governance. It has some of the highest environmental standards in the world! It also ranks very highly on the social side of things. You want to provide high paying jobs? The oil & gas sector does that. Our government standards are second-to-none around the world so investing in Canadian oil & gas companies is not a bad thing. Furthermore if supply is not met by Canada it will be met by other companies in other countries that are not publicly owned and are not beholden to shareholders. If you have a voice at the table you have a stronger say in what the company does.
We export oil and export is important to an economy and I don't think people realize the trickle down effect of closures. To eliminate an entire sector from your investment pool is to eliminate an entire Province. In Alberta 90% of businesses have a tie to the oil & gas industry.
Canada Action: Is Invest Now working on specific campaigns at the moment that our readers should know about?
Gina: Yes. We have a resolution on our website (www.investnow.org), that people can sign. Our targets are corporate Canada - so the people that are sitting around the boardroom tables of these corporations. They need to know what's happening and also they are the ones who become board members of universities and hospitals. We need to get the message out that we need to invest now. Not divest.
With the campaign that I’m working on right now, I've sent a letter to the management and executive team at Ontario teachers. I'm also trying to speak at some of the Board of Governors meetings and talk about the other side. So we’re approaching universities asking them to hear us out.
Canada Action: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Gina: Well just to reiterate that the divestment movement does nothing to help reduce emissions and it doesn't strike a blow against climate change. It strikes a blow against Canada and Canadians need to realize this when they vote for divestment. It's not just a simple yes or no it really has an effect on Canada and Canadians and our economy.
Canada Action: Gina, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today.
Gina: Thank you.
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