Ming Au understands the economics of business and the importance of generating jobs and wealth for a community. After all, he ran a highly successful restaurant in Miramichi, New Brunswick, for over 20 years. Some well-known faces dined in his establishment over those two decades including Canadian country music legend Ronnie Prophet and sports celebrity Ted Williams. As a business association board member, Au also played host to many of Canada’s political players from former prime ministers and members of Parliament to representatives in New Brunswick’s legislative assembly.
Au emigrated from Hong Kong in the early ‘70s with his wife and two young daughters. “I chose Canada because I believed it was the best place for the future of my family. I came here and have never looked back,” he says. As a newcomer, Au was keen to integrate into Canadian society and wanted to be accepted in the community in which he would do business. To that end he embraced local business associations, gave back to the community in a variety of ways, and founded the Miramichi Regional Multicultural Association.
Au also took it upon himself to learn about Canadian government policies. Over the years, and through his research, he came to question Canada’s reliance on foreign oil when its own reserves can more than support the country’s domestic energy needs. He often raised these concerns with politicians who frequented his restaurant, hoping they would craft policies to help Canada become more oil independent.
The announcement of the Energy East Pipeline proposal buoyed Au’s spirits. The pipeline would transport oil produced in Western Canada to refineries in Ontario and Quebec, and to a terminal in New Brunswick. At last he could see progress toward reducing Canada’s need for foreign oil, as well as increased jobs and prosperity for his beloved New Brunswick and Canada as a whole.
Au’s hopes were dashed when the project was subsequently cancelled.
“I recently read that in 2016 Canada imported more than 750,000 barrels of oil per day from OPEC and the U.S. – the highest in the past four years. This represents a lot of money and jobs going to other countries,” he says. “When you have something in your own backyard that can provide food for you, your family and your neighbours, why go outside to buy it? What I see is a missed opportunity.”
The cancellation of Energy East and the downturn in the energy sector has had a great effect in New Brunswick and the surrounding provinces, Au adds. “Many of our young people worked in the Alberta and Saskatchewan oil fields to support their families. Now they don’t have those jobs. Energy East was a star on the horizon. People could see happier times ahead; then it was suddenly taken away. I was surprised and very disappointed – like many others.”
Au is not discouraged, however.
After more than four decades of working and living in New Brunswick, Au is now enjoying retirement in a senior’s residence in Toronto, Ontario. Retirement has not slowed his support for Canada’s energy sector, nor his drive to help bring a pipeline to Eastern Canada to fruition. He continues to voice his concerns to politicians across every party, at every level and at every available opportunity.
“I engage them in discussions about energy policy and how I believe we can empower Canadians,” says Au. “We are a resource rich country, let us put those resources to work for us. It is far better than leaving them idle and allowing others to reap the rewards.”