A host of Canadian citizens came together to advise on energy policy at Simon Fraser University last week. The event was one of many cross-country citizen conversations on energy policy convened by the SFU Centre for Dialogue.

With funding from the federal Department of Natural Resources, the citizen dialogues will continue in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Halifax. The goal is to have Canadians engage in the matter and, by providing research-based information to participants, the dialogues will promote knowledge of current energy issues.

“Conversations around energy have become polarized,” said program director Robin Prest in a press release. “Our goal is to bring Canadians from different regions and perspectives together to find ways to move forward as a country.”

The centre’s mandate is on finding solutions through discussions that facilitate the input of the public. By inviting citizens of different backgrounds to share their perspectives about energy, the dialogue intend to illuminate an understanding about energy needs across the country.

Keane Gruending, the communications manager at the Centre for Dialogue, is looking forward to seeing how diverse groups of Canadians will come together in order to tackle the issues of energy and waste and how they will face compromises to accommodate diverse priorities. He said it is really important that everyone has the opportunity to “share how they relate to energy, and listen to the values and perspectives of others.”

Above all, it is important to him that the dialogue creates a platform in which government officials can hear what Canadians conclude about national energy policy.

The dialogues will address issues including the job market, greenhouse emissions, and global competitiveness as participants complete various exercises that are designed to encourage sharing and listening over a two-day session.

Gruending emphasized that “dialogue works best when coming from an evidence-informed baseline of information,” thus there is a discussion guide provided by the centre created to aid in understanding the dialogue’s main focus.

According to the centre, a national opinion poll found that merely 12% of Canadians have claimed to be very familiar with the government’s plans of the future of energy in Canada.  

The sessions will conclude next month when 35 participants will travel to the national forum in Winnipeg to present their recommendations to government officials. Though only 150 participants have been selected for the dialogues, the results from the sessions will be made public after the conclusion of the final event.