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Virtual town hall shows support for offshore industry

Video conference event led by Newfoundland Offshore Industry Association attracts more than 800 participants.

In May, more than 800 people attended a virtual town hall video conference in support of Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore industry. The event, organized by the Newfoundland Offshore Industry Association (Noia), featured speakers including former premier Brian Tobin, Fred Cahill (owner of one of Atlantic Canada’s largest construction companies) and venture capitalist Mark Dobbin. Attendees included representatives of the energy sector, supply and service providers, the provincial government, and workers directly or indirectly connected with the offshore industry.

The event adds to ongoing calls for federal natural resources minister Seamus O’Regan to deliver financial support for the beleaguered offshore industry. O’Regan is also the Member of Parliament for the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

The tone of the event was positive and speakers gave encouragement and support to O’Regan for his efforts to provide funding support specifically for the offshore industry.

“We want to get something done and help the minister speak with a strong voice,” said Tobin, who was premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1996 to 2000.

Noia CEO Charlene Johnson added, “The minister is trying to get approval for development and exploration incentives but there has to be the political will of the federal government. We want to help the minister convince his cabinet colleagues. We just need short-term assistance, which will be paid back in spades.”

Support for offshore exploration and development would give the industry a needed boost at a time when low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic have sent the entire oil and natural gas sector into unprecedented turmoil. The provincial government also stands to lose substantial revenue from royalties and taxes, typically about $1 billion annually.

O’Regan has stated that Ottawa is exploring options to support the province’s offshore oil and natural gas industry. There is no timeline for when a financial support announcement may be forthcoming.