FROM 2003 TO 2014, CHARLENE JOHNSON served the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as a Member of the House of Assembly and a cabinet minister. After three-plus years living away from her home, Johnson has taken on a new role. In late 2017 she was named the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Industries Association (NOIA). It’s given her another opportunity to serve the people of the province in a way that is, sometimes at least, removed from the hard realities of being in public office.
NATURAL RESOURCES MAGAZINE: What made you want this job?
CHARLENE JOHNSON: I always wanted to contribute to the province in some way. I was an elected member of government for almost 11 years. I left that job and my family moved overseas to Brunei. The NOIA job advertisement came up in August 2017 when I was home for a visit and it caught my attention. I didn’t want to go back into politics … this was another way I could contribute and make the province a better place for residents who live here.
NRM: How does your political experience help you in this role?
CJ: There are a lot of similarities with politics. There are a lot of meetings, a lot of collaboration and events to attend. When I was in politics I was advocated to a lot. Now I’m on the other end of the fence and advocating for something. I think knowing how governments operate on the political side of things is an advantage when you are advocating. That’s a strength I bring to the table. To me it’s about collaboration, and in government you must collaborate with people, businesses, other organizations and governments. Let’s work together where we can.
NRM: What are the biggest challenges facing NOIA’s members and the province’s offshore oil industry?
CJ: My approach is to focus on the positives and opportunities. If we are allowed to be all we can be, get out there and explore—imagine the potential for this industry. We do have some barriers like the proposed new environmental assessment legislation. But I don’t want to talk about any one regulation or piece of legislation or policy change. It’s the whole layering of uncertainty that is the challenge we face. Capital will go where it’s wanted. In talking to businesses, they want to invest money here. They are asking to provide them with clarity and certainty that the rules of the game are not going to change part way through.
NRM: What is the level of business confidence NOIA members have right now in the oil and gas sector?
CJ: The price of oil is moving up and that helps a bit. In talking to a few people, I’m starting to see a better sense of optimism. Members like the collaboration that is happening. We are looking at export opportunities. We will be doing a trade mission to Guyana and members are excited about that. The work they have done in the province has been done well. That gets recognized globally and some of our members have formed joint ventures already in Guyana. Export opportunities like that will help them grow their companies overall, which helps them become more competitive globally.
NRM: What do you want to accomplish as NOIA’s CEO?
CJ: Task number one is working with others to drive the industry. We want to be very effective when we are having conversations with the federal government, the provincial government and other organizations to help people realize the potential of this industry and what it could do for our province and our country. Part of doing that is advocating to the federal government to have regulations that are clear and reduce the layers of uncertainty. My other key goal is to grow our local service and supply sector, here in Newfoundland and Labrador and abroad. It’s been busy but very rewarding because this is work that’s so critically important. If we cannot work with the federal government to ensure our industry has certainty and clarity for investors, then all this other stuff about exports doesn’t matter. That is the critical piece.