Business

Ottawa’s Pipeline Gamble Poses Major Political Risk

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The federal government is investing more than just political capital - and taking on significant risk - as Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that Ottawa will be putting billions of dollars of public money towards building the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The news comes just days before Kinder Morgan’s self-imposed deadline to pull out if it didn’t receive assurances the project wouldn’t be obstructed.

Tuesday’s announcement also comes after months of political wrangling that saw the governments of British Columbia and Alberta squared off in bitter public battle over the pipeline’s construction. Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley has long been a champion of the pipeline that would move Alberta crude and refined oil to the BC coast for international export. BC Premier John Horgan, a fellow New Democrat, stalled the pipeline’s approval citing environmental concerns. Given Horgan’s minority government is propped up by the Green Party, the first-term Premier had virtually no political room to maneuver. Despite intervention from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tried to broker a deal between the two western provinces, no agreement could be reached, putting the project in jeopardy.

Ottawa’s decision to take over the pipeline project is unprecedented in Canadian history, and is likely the result of failure to reach political consensus between Victoria and Edmonton. For the federal Liberals, who face re-election next year, getting construction underway was absolutely critical. If the project had died under their watch, it would have been a major embarrassment for the Prime Minister who has long championed its development, despite coming at odds with many in his supporters who were against it. While polls indicate that the majority of Canadians support the project, many didn’t want to see their tax dollars paying for it, which could become a ballot box question in the next election. The Liberals are taking a big gamble on this project and are assuming significant political risk.

The total bill of the project is expected to be $4.5 billion, which the government says it will recoup once it sells its stake at a later date, stressing Ottawa has no intention to be the long-term owner of the pipeline. Many in oil sector were pleased with the announcement, including Kinder Morgan, who saw its stock jump slightly this morning. However, there are still questions as to whether or not the federal government will be able to find a suitable buyer given the high level of risk associated with the controversial project.

Provident will be following this project closely and will be offering our insights. Our team has extensive experience in the energy sector, along capital markets, particularly M&A transactions, which will be a key component of this pipeline’s success.

The modern workplace: why you should consider a flexible work environment

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While companies increasingly say they offer ‘remote’ or ‘flexible’ work opportunities for their employees - whether work-from-home Fridays or a ‘results only work environment’ - very few actually enforce it as part of the company culture, and employees are often hesitant to take advantage of these so-called work perks. In reality, you’re often still expected to be at a desk, Monday through Friday, from nine a.m. to five p.m. (at minimum) if you want to keep up appearances that you are thoroughly doing your job and producing business results.  

This is an old-fashioned mentality that must be addressed if organizations are expected to meet the needs of an evolving workforce. Lack of trust is often the common denominator preventing employers from enforcing more remote or flexible work arrangements. It is difficult for some business leaders to believe their team will in fact be working outside of the office, whether it’s from home or elsewhere. This trust gap is inevitably a big hurdle, but one that must be overcome if organizations want to move with the times and keep their employees happy over the long-term.

When you trust your team, treat them like adults and give them the flexibility to choose where they work from, they are bound to be more satisfied with their job. Retention is also much higher if your employees are offered flex work. Not convinced? Here are some other benefits to a flexible work arrangement.

Productivity

A key benefit is improved productivity. I know this from personal experience - less distraction and interruptions typically experienced in an office helps me complete my tasks in a more focused and efficient manner - but research also supports this theory. A recent survey by FlexJobs found that 66% of workers polled are more productive in a home office. According to the survey, some of the most common reasons for increased productivity, in addition to fewer interruptions or distractions, are: less commuter-driven stress, less office politics, and reduced noise levels. Now that’s data I can work with.

Autonomy

Not all employees are made the same. Everyone has their own preferred work zone and it most often depends on the situation. As someone who does a lot of writing for my job, I often feel most inspired when I lock myself away in a quiet space at home. Others may find a coffee shop the perfect place to spark creativity, while yet others may benefit from the structure of a shared office space. The bottom line is that, depending on our personalities and the tasks we undertake (which are often varied in the modern workplace) will underscore where we like to work the most. Having the autonomy to choose that environment depending on the task - with less micromanagement throughout the day - is a major benefit of a flexible work arrangement.

Collaboration

Yes, you can still collaborate in real time, even if your team is working from various remote locations. The advent of technology has made this increasingly simple, so being in one designated workplace, five days a week, is no longer a necessity for many technology-reliant jobs. In this plugged-in era, employees are typically within easy reach of their laptops, mobile phones, and other devices. Combined with the prevalence of cloud-based collaboration tools for chatting and video-conferencing, there really is no shortage of ways to connect from afar.

Work-Life Balance

When you don’t need to travel to a dedicated workspace day after day, particularly during busy rush hours, you can use that time in other ways. One option is to work through your deliverables so you have more time for home life after-hours. Alternatively, it can give you an added opportunity to focus on ways to increase your physical and mental health and well-being, by freeing up more time to exercise, make a hearty breakfast, read, walk your dog, spend more time with family, and so on.

Another key reason to advocate for a flexible work space is that the best ideas often don’t happen between nine to five. I enjoy writing in the evenings, while others may feel most productive in the early hours of the morning. The flexibility of choosing your work setting and, to a degree, hours, can foster increased balance between work and home life. The key is finding what works best for you while simultaneously meeting the business needs of your employer.

Sociability

I would argue that creating opportunities for in-person interaction is still incredibly important in the modern workplace. While being able to work remotely is a great perk, certainly there are times when employees crave more interaction and sociability - I know I do. Going for meetings at a local café is one way to tackle this. Having a shared or co-working office space is another great way to counteract periodic feelings of isolation. Moreover, in-person meetings may foster improved brainstorms and innovation. The reality is, even as the way we work continues to morph and evolve, sometimes people need face time (actual, in-person face time, not the technological kind). We are human, after all.

What are your thoughts on the modern workplace and the future of work? Whether a business owner or an employee, do you embrace a flexible work environment? There is no shortage of compelling thinking on the subject matter, and I would love to hear your viewpoint.