New Technology Magazine

Attention To Social Licence


There has been a lot of attention drawn to the “social licence” to operate in Canada’s resources sectors in recent months as large-scale projects like continent-crossing pipelines and rapid scale-up of oilsands production draws more public attention to the issue. In fact, it is making many such projects, which in the past would have been quickly rubber stamped, increasingly challenging to sell to an ever more skeptical public--and unfortunately recent government action is making it even tougher.

Companies can go a long way toward gaining social licence by promoting the most responsible and sustainable means of development and being fully transparent about it. But governments play a vital role as well, as long as they can be seen to be striking a proper balance of resource development against other values important to Canadians, like respecting environmental, social, aboriginal and other values in resource development decisions.

Unfortunately, as governments scale back regulation and make cuts to the ability to study and monitor our resources and their development—even if for good reasons like balancing their budgets and promoting economic growth—they risk making the attainment of social licence all the more difficult for companies to achieve.

Today’s headlines about further federal cuts to funding of science-focused departments and increased worries among those scientists that remain that their departments are weakening efforts to protect Canadians and the environment only feed into the notion that governments are unwilling or unable to strike a proper balance any more, which only feeds into the backlash against more resource development.

(A sampling of top ranking headlines on the subject:

In Depth: Federal government cutting $3 billion from rail safety, health and environmental science: union

Federal science hobbled by cuts and policies, poll says

Government scientists overwhelmingly agree budget cuts have been harmful

Conservatives' budget cuts worry most government scientists: Survey Toronto Star)

While governments may take such actions believing they will promote resource development and increased economic growth, they are as likely to do the opposite as social licence becomes ever harder to attain as a result.


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