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Industry in the Community: OSCA – One Year Later

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Leadership and collaboration are key to building relationships and creating socio-economic benefits.

When the Oil Sands Community Alliance (OSCA) was created in the fall of 2013, it was tasked with focusing on regional socio-economic issues inclusive of industry and non-industry stakeholders to embrace innovative solutions that help to build thriving communities and enable responsible growth of the oil sands.

The role of OSCA is to coordinate collaboration with industry members, where objectives are shared, within four key areas – aboriginal relations, community well-being, infrastructure and workforce. In turn, these arrangements with industry members support collaborative networks with the public and private sectors – which are fundamental to the long-term economic success in the region.

Responsible and sustainable growth of the oil sands is achieved through a combination of individual and co-ordinated initiatives that involve industry members working with key stakeholders.

Over the spring of 2014, OSCA facilitated numerous one-on-one meetings with key regional stakeholders across the Athabasca Oil Sands Area (AOSA) to discuss current and emerging concerns. These discussions provided an opportunity to hear first-hand how growth is impacting the region in different ways depending on where you are located in the region from Fort McMurray to Lac La Biche to Wabasca-Desmarais.

“Improving socio-economic outcomes requires a coordinated approach. These one-on-one discussions helped to build relationships and provided valuable insight in framing the initial regional stakeholder engagement sessions in the fall of 2014,” says Reegan McCullough, executive director of OSCA. “The most effective policy responses are those that respect the interests of all stakeholders by creating locally driven processes that support ongoing discussion, involvement and benefit, factors that are fundamental to all relationships.”

Subsequently, OSCA has hosted its first regional stakeholder sessions, one in Fort McMurray and one in Lac La Biche in September. Additional sessions are being developed in Wabasca-Desmarais and with aboriginal communities later this fall.

These stakeholder sessions form part of industry’s ongoing engagement efforts and focus on:

• Current and forecasted oil sands growth; • Gathering perspectives on current and emerging socio-economic issues under the four focus areas; • Identifying opportunities for collaboration amongst all stakeholders.

“It is important that we act now with our regional stakeholders to proactively plan and manage the growth so that we can maximize the benefits to communities where our members operate,” said McCullough.

These sessions included senior industry members and key community leaders from school boards, construction associations, municipalities, RCMP, non-profits, fire and health services, post-secondary institutions, tourism and chambers of commerce. At both sessions, OSCA sought ways to incorporate our cultural and food product diversity in the oil sands area. In Fort McMurray, the Wood Buffalo Federation of Chefs & Cooks created and presented locally sourced products from within Alberta and in Lac La Biche, first and second year culinary students from Portage College also amazed with locally sourced dishes. Both dinners served to remind us of the talent and skills that exist in our local businesses, work camps and learning institutions.

While still in its early stages, OSCA has engaged a variety of stakeholders in several notable projects including the partnering with six other local enterprises for the Look into Wood Buffalo Community Wellbeing Survey: A Profile of Wellbeing of Wood Buffalo Region Residents. For the survey, OSCA partnered with Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the United Way of Fort McMurray, Keyano College and FuseSocial. Developed by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the survey was conducted between May 3 to June 20, this year. It was a way for the partners to learn what residents had to say about their quality of life in Wood Buffalo. It focused on those things that matter to people such as education, leisure and culture, living standards, healthy populations and community vitality. We all want Wood Buffalo to offer the highest possible quality of life to attract and retain workers and their families for many years to come. This survey provides a starting point of how residents view their quality of life at this point in time.

The results from this survey can be used by many different organizations for a variety of purposes including regional planning, community strategies and developing shared objectives.

The general findings of the survey about our community’s overall wellbeing are positive. Respondents indicated a high level of satisfaction with their life in general through high levels of satisfaction with mental wellbeing, relationships, financial situations, and work.

“We are proud of the incredible work accomplished through the Wood Buffalo Community Wellbeing Survey and celebrate its success with our community partners,” says Brandi Gartner, community well-being director for OSCA.

“OSCA understands the value of collaboration and will continue to participate with community partners to collect valuable data in order to understand and build a resilient region,” she added.

Nancy Mattes, director, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo echoed those comments, “In today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world, no one organization can solve complex problems working in isolation.

“The need to work collaboratively across boundaries, sectors and institutions is critical to building resilience and quality of life. Being able to collaborate on the Look into Wood Buffalo Community Wellbeing Survey with various stakeholders such as OSCA was a critical factor in the success of that initiative and increased the community’s capacity to address complex social problems.”

Visit to read the outcomes.

Partnership was again forefront this summer as over 95 people from across Canada gathered at Winefred Lake Aug. 20 to 22 for the Experiential Learning (EL) Gathering hosted by the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). SCI is a collaboration between OSCA industry partners and the communities of Janvier and Fort Chipewyan. The Gathering was an opportunity to learn hands-on about and identify ways to enhance and expand experiential learning opportunities within the education system and to build capacity in small communities. It also highlighted, to a broader audience, experiential learning strategies that have proven to be very effective in advancing learning opportunities for rural aboriginal communities. It demonstrated at a practical hands-on level the realization of the vision of being able to ‘walk in two worlds’ through the collaborative integration of traditional skills, knowledge, language, values and culture within the current living and learning environment.

The three-day event included sessions on Old Crow (Yukon) bi-cultural co-teaching models, Land Based Learning in Saskatchewan and Cando Community School Radio Broadcasting (Living Sky School Division), ancestral technology, an ecology scavenger hunt, a workshop on traditional foods and paddle carving and a hand game tournament.

For many, the highlights of the Gathering included a chance to learn about experiential learning models from across Canada and the creation of a temporary community to foster engagement and relationship development between communities and partners.

hanks to Sekweha, Lake Athabasca Youth Council (LAYC) and Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation (CPDFN) for their support in making the first annual EL Gathering a success.

(**For more information on the Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI) or our community partners Sekweha and LAYC, please visit**)

Collaboration is also key to the success of our workforce focus area. Access to an adequate supply of skilled labour has been a challenge for the industry and the overall demand is forecasted to grow considerably over the next decade. Working with industry members (Suncor, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Cenovus and Husky Energy), OSCA is leading a pilot project to increase the supply of power engineers. To help determine the challenges and opportunities, OSCA invited all industry members and learning institutions to a Workforce Summit on Oct. 2. The discussion focused on supply/demand and key bottlenecks impacting the timely training and certification of power engineers. The input we received is currently being summarized and will focus on actions for 2015. We will also be reviewing ways to work with active groups to provide better, timelier employment information for oil sands construction, maintenance and operations.