Gary Mar moves beyond Alberta’s borders – again

Former PC leadership contender sets his sights on selling Alberta in Asia

January 05, 2012

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Gary Mar

Gary Mar has landed on his feet after a failed bid to become Alberta’s next premier. In October, Mar was handpicked to be the province’s Asian envoy by the candidate who beat him: Alison Redford. The former cabinet minister should feel comfortable in the new job. He held a similar post in Washington, D.C., for four years.

Alberta Oil: Why did you take this job when Premier Redford offered it to you?
Gary Mar:
I campaigned that the future prosperity of Alberta will partly rest on our success in being able to sell to, and attract investment from, Asia. And the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, the silver lining there to me is it will encourage the federal government and others to recognize the need to build infrastructure to get what we produce, what we make, and what we upgrade to marketplaces other than the United States.

AO: How will this job differ from what you did in Washington?
GM:
In Washington I was doing a lot of work on the advocacy side. My mission there was never about investment attraction. That’s going to be a much bigger part of my job in Asia. Our exports to the Asia-Pacific region would have been in the range of $6.5 billion in 2010. That’s to a marketplace of three to four billion people. It’s a very small market share.

AO: Do you think if you had stayed on in Washington instead of running for premier the Keystone XL decision would have turned out differently?
GM:
That’s a hypothetical question that’s hard to answer. I think the success or failure of Keystone XL is dependent on a lot of people. I know at the time of my departure back in March of 2011, all indications looked pretty good. There is a delay now. We have to redouble our efforts to move this project forward.

AO: What do you hope to accomplish from an oil and gas perspective in this job?
GM:
Until we have infrastructure that can get bitumen and our refined products to the marketplace, there is no point in trying to sell that. In the long run, we will want to see energy exports in the region. In the near-term we want investment and we want to seek opportunities for our services sector to expand over there.

AO: How will you assess whether you’ve been successful or not?
GM:
For me it will be an increase in the contact between Alberta businesses and enterprises in the marketplace. We currently export $6.5 billion, if we were able to move the needle over the next four years by 25 per cent that would make a big difference to Alberta. But that’s not the only criterion you should apply. You should be looking at the number of transactions, the amount of activity, and market share increases.

AO: How critical is it for Alberta to access Asian markets for its oil and gas?
GM:
It won’t take very long for China to eclipse the United States as the biggest economy in the world. You know, my dad had a small corner store and he used to say, ‘If there’s one thing better than one really good customer, it’s two or more really good customers.’ We should be thinking about who are second-, third- and fourth-largest customers are going to be. We’ve got to up our game.

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