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Weekly Speaker Program

April 8, 2019: Gary Mar, CEO of PSAC and former Alberta Envoy to Asia and Washington       website

Our guest speaker, Gary Mar, was introduced by Cory Tretiak, past president of the Airdrie Rotary Club.

Gary Mar assumed the role of President and CEO of Petroleum Services Association of Canada in 2018. Prior to PSAC, Gary worked as an independent consultant to both Chinese and Canadian companies seeking assistance with trans-Pacific trade and investment.

He previously served as the Province of Alberta’s representative in Asia from 2011 to 2015, leading the province’s strategic outreach efforts from his post in Hong Kong. Exports from Alberta and Asian investment in Alberta increased dramatically during his tenure.

Gary also served as Alberta’s official representative to the United State of America in Washington DC from 2007 to 2011, and worked extensively with the Alberta energy sector on advocacy issues in Washington and many US States.

Prior to this, Gary served for 14 years as a member of the legislative assembly for the Province of Alberta. holding cabinet portfolios in Community Development, Health and Wellness, Education, Environment, and International and Inter-Governmental Relations.

Gary holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Law degree from University of Alberta.

Surprisingly, Gary started his talk with a song which was an Alberta saga for present times. He followed that with an almost authentic imitation of a horse race announcer’s “call to the post” for the parties for the Alberta Provincial Election on April 16. Included in that call to the post was a history of the wins and the losses of the parties over the years, calling it the 30th Alberta Derby. He did not predict a winner.

Gary grew up in Calgary, coming from humble beginnings, and worked in his dad’s corner grocery store. Who knew that during the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Premier Klein would ask Gary to greet leaders from all over the world to Calgary?! One of them was the prime minister of Italy. Somehow, they got talking about Italian food from his region of Abruzzo in Italy. His favorite dishes, like lasagna, Gary knew a lot about. The prime minister remarked that he had never seen an Italian look so Chinese!

In 2005, Gary met Queen Elizabeth II. He told a story about then-Premier Ralph Klein. The queen correctly recognized a caribou in a picture that Ralph called an elk. She quipped that our premier had learned something on that day! Gary noted that Ralph was equally comfortable in the presence of the queen, or at the St. Louis Hotel, where he often frequented as a municipal representative of The City of Calgary.

Premier Ed Stelmach is the one who appointed Gary to Washington DC during the issues with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in our beef industry. He set up an office in the Canadian Embassy, working there in an advocacy role. During that time, 35 states identified Canada as the largest recipient for their exports. His job was to lever up those relationships, and Gary most enjoyed working with Gary Doer.

The Alberta office is the only office of 33 international offices trained in advocacy. Dollar value in steel trade in Canada is higher than automotive. Our trade relationship with the US is important to all of Canada. Oil sands products drive industries in other parts of Canada, like trucks and tires that are used in Fort McMurray. He feels our present prime minister and trade representative do not understand how to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement. They over-share before negotiations begin. During negotiations there are irritants, and the agreement is about negotiating away the irritants.

Gary was stationed in Hong Kong as a trade representative. There were 13 Alberta offices in different cities in Asia and China for which he was responsible. He concentrated on small rich cities that drive the Chinese economy. He used as an example a city that makes furniture using a specialized highly durable forestry product. Alberta sells well-regarded and important agricultural products. Recently, Alberta is enjoying success as a direct cargo link, especially for beef. Canada is the bridge between the two largest economies of China and the United States. Oil is important now and into the future. Canada has placed itself poorly with both these large trading partners. There are lessons to be learned.

The world wants:

  1. Energy(hydrocarbons)
  2. Better food (ag tech)
  3. Water resources

Canada has all of these in abundance. In the 1980s, we fixed acid rain and in 1987 CFCs were a problem creating a hole in the ozone layer, and fixes were found. “We can find solutions!” was his upbeat message. Solutions are being addressed in the oil sands in Canada: water, land disturbance, tailings ponds and CO2 emissions. All these have had successful advancements. CO2 is produced 80% from cars, not the oil sands industry. Today there are economic developments for reliable affordable hydrocarbons. Best policy solutions come from the middle ground and a balanced approach.

Question time!

Gary replied to a question about Huawei. This is an American issue and Canada is unfortunately caught in the middle. Could it have been handled differently? Yes! Implementing the 5G network through a Chinese state-controlled company is a security threat. The right oversight of the source code is crucial. G5 is a very important technology development for utilization in the future.

To a second question, Gary said carbon can be regulated in two ways. One way is by a carbon management system. Carbon is too broad a source to manage. The second way is the carbon tax which invests in technology and will reduce CO2 emissions. Gary says to look to the future and produce liquefied natural gas which we can sell to China to reduce their coal production to reduce CO2 and make a bigger impact.

The future of the Trans Pacific Partnership looks good with Japan’s prime minister taking the lead on this. Japan is the third largest economy in the world.

Dalbir Rattan thanked Gary and presented him with a Boltman. Gary graciously received the gift and jokingly said that he would like to thank the Academy…

  • Tim Anderson, Dalbir Rattan, and Gary Mar Tim Anderson, Dalbir Rattan, and Gary Mar

reported by Marie Rickard

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