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90 YEARS OF LOCAL BUSINESS LEGACIES — Two Fort St. John companies celebrated major milestones in June: Surerus Pipeline celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 14, 2019, while Epscan celebrated 40 years on the same day. At left, Brian Surerus takes a seat in one of the first machines he bought in the early days of building his company, first known as Groundhog Enterprises. At right, Don Stirling slices into a celebratory cake. Read more on pages 6 to 11 | Matt Preprost Photos

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JUNE 21, 2019

10th Annual FSJ Oilmen’s FAMILY CAMP WEEKEND August 9th - 11th

EVENT INFORMATION • The 10th Annual Oilmen’s Family Camp Weekend is an event the entire family can enjoy. Friday will be registration day between 4-8pm, set up camp, meet and greet, kid’s activities and dinner. We have planned for wagon rides and a movie on the big screen. • Saturday we have various planned events at the campsite for all to enjoy and food is provided. Activities include a multiple of team challenges and wagon rides. Duck Auctions and Reverse Draw after the sponsored dinner. Movies and popcorn on the jumbo screen in the park. • Sunday is highlighted by helicopter rides for the kids followed by games, crafts, bouncy castles, wagon rides, and fire trucks. To wrap up the weekend Bailey Helicopters drops 600 ducks into the Peace River for the 10th Annual Duck Race. • There will be a special painting event for the first 100 moms who register for it, split into groups of 50 over Friday and Saturday night during the movies. • Surprise events throughout the weekend.

Any Questions regarding registration feel free to contact

Chris Clay (250) 264-2729

JUNE 21, 2019



Shane Stirling takes an icy plunge into the dunk tank at Epscan’s 40th anniversary celebration, June 14, 2019. | Matt Preprost Photo

Who’s going to run it?


t sounds like an overly simplistic question, but one that needs to be asked: Who’s going to run it? Who is going to run the frac pumps, tank trucks, cats and hoes? The much needed plant operators and instrument technicians that keeping infrastructure going? Changing worker expectations, veterans retiring, and many leaving due to the uncertainly of the continual boom and bust cycle has the industry contending with brain drain. If we were to wave the magic wand and the woes of the energy sector were gone, could we fill the chairs? More importantly, could we prepare the next wave of workers to work safely and effectively as we ramp up the industry?

We could be faced with a major hurdle with filling the seats in the event of an upswing in activity. The health of any industry relies heavily on human capital and it’s of the utmost importance we effectively attract and retain new talent. Buying physical assets and getting the work is important to scaling up when times are good. However, carts don’t pull horses, so we find ourselves in a predicament if we can’t get the people to do the work. How do we attract people to the industry and retain them is literally the million-dollar question for businesses and the industry as a whole. The focus has been on breaking the logjam of pipelines and market access for obvious

Chuck Fowler reasons. Nonetheless, it’s all for nothing if equipment sits idle with no one to run it once these obstacles are cleared. Times have changed in terms of what many people value in a career or workplace. No longer is it just about making the big bucks, but rather having scheduled time off, good benefits, and a work-life balance are essential to the

new era of resource workers. Making it to Timmy’s soccer game and having some semblance of structure to life have some passing up the allure of money, the traditional attraction to the patch. If you ask managers and owners alike about a point of constant frustration, it’s inevitably finding employees. To make matters worse, the challenge is finding employees who won’t cost you more then you make. In many circles, the words “seat covers” is muttered in hush tones. It’s a term used to describe an employee sitting beside the driver that has the value and work ethic as that of the cover on the seat. In other words, not much. Many reading this would correctly say this

is a problem of most industries and businesses, and not specific to the energy sector. What makes it somewhat unique is if you overlay the problem against the background of a downturn, the push to villainize the industry, and that most of these jobs are in remote areas, it becomes a monumental challenge. Those who invest in organically growing their talent from within when money permits can stand at the ready when the industry picks up. For some, it’s not a luxury they can afford, and will be scrambling to sort out the seat covers from the workers they can trust and eventually invest in. Chuck Fowler lives and works in Fort St. John.



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Gas clerk Alex Scafe with the Dawson Creek Co-op keeps vehicles topped up and drivers in their vehicles on a rainy day. Rob Brown Photo

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macro shares climb on strong Q1 mATT PREPROST Fresh off a strong 2018, Fort St. John’s Macro Enterprises continued to see positive results in the first quarter of 2019. The company reports net earnings of $6.8 million, or 23 cents per share, on revenues of $121.6 million through the first three months of the year. That’s up from a loss of $2.3 million on just $8.7 million in revenues during the same quarter in 2018. “The material increase in revenues during the quarter was anticipated as a result of a number of projects continuing from late prior year,” the company reported May 27. “Significant construction activity levels were sustained throughout the quarter, however, as expected the Company’s margins were impacted by increased equipment and maintenance costs which in turn pressured bottom line results.” Operations are being streamlined and improved to increase margins while maintaining health, safety, and environmental standards, the company said. The company noted it has seen 23 consecutive corners without a single lost-time injury. The majority of the revenue for the quarter

— $110.1 million — came from pipeline and facilities construction, with the rest from maintenance services. In the same quarter last year, maintenance services accounted for the majority of the company’s revenue. Revenues from joint operations on the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines accounted for less than 10% of revenue for the quarter, the company said. Meanwhile, shareholders elected Bob Fedderly to the company’s board of directors at their annual general meeting on May 28. He has been appointed to the company’s audit and compensation committees. “Management is of the view that Mr. Fedderly will provide valuable perspective and expertise to the Board as an independent director,” the company said. Fedderly is president of Fedderly Transportation, founded in 1980, and president of GasNorth Energy. He has previously worked with the Energy Services BC, the Northern BC Truckers Association, the BC Oil and Gas Commission in various capacities. “Mr. Fedderly’s experience gained throughout many years serving the energy industry has provided him with a wide angle view of the industry,” the company said.



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matt preprost Twenty-five years, twenty-five thousand dollars — Petronas Canada is celebrating the silver jubilee of the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation. The company donated $25,000 in recognition of the organization’s 25th anniversary this year to buy new equipment needed for the hospital’s laboratory and in-patient unit. The rest will go to wherever else the need is the greatest in the hospital. “With plans to be in the Fort St. John area for decades, we want to invest in the community in ways that matter,” Liz Hannah, Petronas vice-president of external affairs, said in an announcement. “Ensuring healthcare centres have the equipment they need in order to provide the best care feels like a great investment that will provide huge benefit to the community.” The foundation was established in January 1994, and has raised

millions of dollars to buy medical equipment to support patient care at the hospital and Peace Villa care home. In the last decade alone, the foundation has bought 233 pieces of equipment — dialysis chairs, wheelchairs, diagnostic machines, games — and there’s always a need for more. Niki Hedges, executive director of the hospital foundation, called Petronas Canada an integral supporter alongside the many businesses and residents that support the foundation’s work. “This support allows the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation to continue to purchase much needed medical equipment and technologies, giving our doctors and medical staff the vital tools they need to ensure the best quality health care is available to local patients, families, and to our surrounding communities that rely on our hospital,” Hedges said.



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JUNE 21, 2019



Surerus celebrates 50 years of Western adventure mATT PREPROST Hundreds turned out to 50th anniversary celebrations for Surerus Pipeline in Fort St. John on June 14, an evening of northern hospitality marked with a turkey dinner and theatre improv, stories and camaraderie. It was 1969 when Brian Surerus made his way north from Roseneath, Ontario, to the Peace Country in B.C., rolling into town in a 1969 Ford Ranger F100 he would later trade in for a dump truck, and maintaining roads for the department of highways under the name of Groundhog Enterprises. Two years later, Surerus had finished his first pipeline project for Union Oil near Fort St. John, and decided to change his company name to Surerus Construction and Development and pursue more work in the industry. Today, Surerus is one of Canada’s largest pipeline construction companies, with its eyes set on a horizon stretching out another 50 years. “You can imagine the effort that goes into setting up for an event like this, but you can’t set up for a 50th year party without starting from something, and that’s what today’s about: it’s about the journey my dad’s had, and all of us who are fortunate to be here today have been able to enjoy as well,” said Sean Surerus, Brian’s son and current company president.

“It’s an incredible accomplishment.” An incredible accomplishment and story of Canadian entrepreneurism, indeed, and one that was celebrated by city councillors, MLAs, senators, workers, friends, and family. They were all on hand to crowd around Brian as employees gifted him a restored 1969 Ranger to celebrate the anniversary. It may not have been the original truck he drove into town with, but it was pretty damn close — more than $68,000 was raised and more than 1,800 hours were spent to restore the truck. “What do you give a guy that’s built this empire that he can’t buy on his own? You don’t buy him something, you build him something,” said Nathan Pysar, who’s been working with Surerus for more than a decade and will be the superintendent on the Trans Mountain expansion project. “He drove here and started with nothing. I think we give it back to him.” The Surerus name is known for giving back, both to its community and to its employees. To mark its anniversary this year, Surerus donated $20,000 to the North Peace Cultural Centre on June 8 to sponsor 50 brand new theatre seats. Employees look to Brian as a mentor, a man at the top of his field who helps elevate others to his level. Raj Acharjee calls him a case study in management, one that a student could write

a master’s thesis about. “He has a unique way of managing things successfully. I’ve told him, ‘You must give some classes to the students in university to share your experience.’ That’s what management is all about, it comes from experiences like Brian’s. After 50 years, he’s a master of management,” Acharjee said. “Sean has evolved his leadership and been very successful. He’s managing diverse knowledge across cultures, and creating a competitive advantage in the market, and that’s why we’re doing well.” Indeed, Surerus has brought the world to Canada. Acharjee first met the Surerus family in India in 2008 to talk about a pipeline project there. His first impressions? They were very Canadian. “It’s one of the most respectful, humble, polite countries in the world, so that’s how I define Canadians,” Acharjee said. “So, they were very Canadian to me, and I really appreciated it. They were very kind gentlemen, professional.” Though the pipeline project didn’t go through, Acharjee kept in touch. He made his way to Canada and back to the oil and gas sector with Surerus in 2014 after studying for his masters in global management in Victoria, and his masters in business administration

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in Germany. “They gave me the opportunity. That is my forte, pipelines,” he said. Acharjee would first be stationed in Calgary, helping the company develop processes and systems in a new partnership with J.Murphy & Sons, based in the UK, before moving to Fort St. John. That joint-venture partnership holds two significant pieces of work on the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain expansion projects. The JV was born out of a shift for the company in 2012 after looking at the growing number of large pipeline projects proposed in Canada: Energy East, Northern Gateway, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, and the West Coast Connector, to name just a few. It was a natural progression up for the company, which started out in small-inch projects, and grew into mid-inch projects in the late 1980s. Surerus was one of the last companies, alongside Fort St. John’s Macro Enterprises, to join a small group of large diameter contractors in Canada in 2011. “The size of the work we did, the pipe size, the length, as well as the complexity, those things all evolved over time,” Sean Surerus said. “You don’t just get there by being a contractor, you get there by having credibility by having resources, that’s people and equipment, and being able to handle the risk that comes with larger work.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 9


matt preprost photo

Where would Brian Surerus be without a 1969 Ford Ranger F100? Well, one could say he may not be in Fort St. John. The truck carried him from Roseneath, Ontario, out west and north, where he traded in the truck for some equipment, put down roots, and built himself a business. Surerus Pipeline celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 14, 2019, alongside family, friends, and the community. And to mark the milestone, Surerus was presented with a restored 1969 Ford Ranger, original colour and all. It may not be his original truck, but it’s a great gift to mark a great legacy, nevertheless.

Congratulations Brian on 50 years of success and hard work, 50 years of supporting local families and suppliers, and 50 years of contributions to the community

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JUNE 21, 2019



Looking forward to challenge of building TMX, CGL CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7

With so many major pipeline projects proposed in the country earlier this decade, and so few major contractors to provide the capacity necessary to build them all, international pipeline companies from the U.S. and Europe were invited to the country to help fill the gaps. That’s how Surerus met the team from J. Murphy & Sons. Mick Fitzpatrick, president of the Surerus Murphy joint venture, remembers the Coastal GasLink file landing on his desk, coming to Canada, and quickly realizing his company needed a Canadian partner. “If we we’re going to do anything in this country, we we’re going to need a local partner who understands matt preprost photo the terrain, who understands how Nathan Pysar and Mick Fitzpatrick in the Surerus yard during the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations, June 14, 2019. things work, understands the indigenous communities, and who on them, but we wouldn’t have won year-over-year, uncommon in the forward to the challenge. I’ve always understands the work,” Fitzpatrick them without a local partner.” pipeline business. started and finished something.” said. The joint venture has been tasked “Generally we’re season to season. There’s still plenty of expansion “There is no -40 C in the UK. to build 140 kilometres of pipe Both jobs will give us a three- work to come, and Surerus expects Summer work is summer work, the $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink year window … everyone is busy to keep busy. whether that’s Australia or the UK project, and 180 kilometres of pipe for three years,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re looking at how do we or Canada. But winter work is a for the Trans Mountain expansion, “We’re fortunate to have two great expand our business to take completely different thing.” a project likely to push far past $9 crews to deliver two jobs, that can advantage of opportunies within “When we met with Brian, John’s billion. springboard to develop business in this sector of construction that a very down to earth guy who came Both projects are transformational other areas.” would use similar pieces of up through pipelines as well. We — not just for the company, but for Pysar called Trans Mountain an equipment and similar types of really hit it off,” he added. “There Canada. The company will employ opportunity of a lifetime. people,” Sean Surerus said. “We’re were some big jobs that we were roughly 1,000 workers on each “I believe our country needs it. looking at how do we expand our both bidding for. From a Murphy project, including sub-contractors. We need this oil and gas, we need business offerings so we’re capable perspective, we were never going to Both are three-year builds at this industry,” he said. “For me, it’s and nimble, and responsive to the win those jobs. We could have bid minimum, providing steady work an honour to be able to do it. I look market needs.”

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Epscan: Celebrating 40 years of family business matt preprost When Don Stirling and Bob Churchill finished trades school in Vancouver and hatched a plan to start an instrumentation company in the north, they shared a bottle of scotch one night to come up with a name. “Well, we could call it Electrical Pneumatic Service Calibration and Repair, but Epscar didn’t sound that great, you know?” Stirling recalled. “Then we said, how about maintenance? Well, that would be OK. But Epscam, well… I don’t know. So, we thought, how about nothing? N. Epscan — yeah, that rings a bell. It sounded like a good name and that’s what we stuck with.” Forty years after launching Epscan Industries with their friend Earl Simms, the company celebrated its milestone anniversary with a barbecue, dunk tank, charity raffle, and open house on June 14. “We’ve captured the spirit of Fort St. John in this 40th anniversary, with the friends that are here and

the people we’ve had conversations with,” Stirling said. “The attitude of Fort St. John towards our business and towards the honesty and hard work that we’ve had here at Epscan, they recognize those things and support it. Time speaks for itself, and customers also speak for you,” he said. Instrumentation was a new trade when the Stirling and Churchill graduated. Few knew what an instrument mechanic was and what they could do. But after joining forces with Simms, folks were quick to be amazed by the knowledge they brought out into the field. Today, the company has carried that knowledge through the Stirling family, and has used it to help establish itself as one of the biggest training hubs for apprentices in the region. “We live here, the people that we employ live here. We rarely import talent from out of town,” Dustin Stirling said. “We pride ourselves on growing our own staff, from entry level all the way to the top

tradespeople in the industry.” Dustin and his brother Shane joined the company’s management team in 2008, though both admit they never planned to follow their father’s footsteps, though both did work summer jobs at the company. Dustin went to university for a year before realizing it was a mistake. “Why would I go ahead with something like that when I have the opportunity to be involved in something like this?” he said. Growing up, Shane felt the impact of the sacrifices his father was making to build his business. “He was building a business, he was away a lot. That was a little tough on some things in childhood,” he said. “But in the summers, it was pretty awesome: we’d travel around and play baseball, and we’d all cruise around in the RV. In the winters, there were some heavy slogs there. He was working hard. I didn’t want to work that hard, it seemed crazy. I was going to go to school to do anything else.” By the time Grade 12 came

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around, Shane didn’t want to go to school. His dad encouraged him to go into a trade. “The trades are a viable path to a career. I never saw it that way in the beginning though.” Don admits it was difficult being away from family as often as he was in the early days. Sacrifice doesn’t come without commitment and a mutual understanding, however. “The nucleus of our family was strong enough to withstand the pressures. A lot of the people have problems with that and it’s definitely an understanding with you and your wife and, hopefully, your kids can understand you have to spend the time to make a good business. It just comes with the territory,” he said. “It was difficult and I certainly didn’t regret not being able to do as much as I could have with them. We made up for it in the older years, and now it’s good because we got grandkids and they’re both here everyday.” The company employs 110 workers today, though can see its workforce fluctuate to up to 140

JUNE 21, 2019

people depending on industry activity. It trains between 10 to 15 instrumentation and electrical apprentices a year. Many of those alumni have gone on to be employees, clients, and peers in competition. As much as family, community, and training are key to Epscan, so too is innovation. “For the instrumentation piece, technology is something we’re always on the forefront of,” Shane said. “If something changes or there’s something new, we’re not shy to try and see if we can work it into our business model, and make ourselves a little bit more competitive. It’s always that competitive edge that keeps you here and keeps you going.”



matt preprost photo

Dustin Stirling takes aim at the dunk tank during Epscan 40th anniversary celebrations on June 14, 2019.

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Timelines imposed to clean up old wells matt preprost The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission says it has introduced a new regulation imposing timelines to speed up the reclamation of old well sites in the province. In a news release Friday, the Commission said the regulation makes the province the first in Western Canada to impose timelines into law under its new dormancy regulation and liability management plan. “I’m pleased to be delivering on the commitment made last year to have hard timelines in place to ensure the timely cleanup of dormant oil and gas sites in B.C.,” Commissioner Paul Jeakins said in a statement. “This new regulation increases opportunities for Indigenous communities and land owners

to identify high priority sites for reclamation.” There are approximately 25,000 oil and gas wells in the province, with roughly 1% orphaned and restored through an industry funded reclamation fund, according to the Commission. The rest are under the care and control of operators that maintain responsibility for site cleanup, the Commission said. Under the regulation, each dormant well site will be given a prescribed cleanup timeline depending on when it became dormant, and imposes requirements for decommissioning, site assessment, remediation, reclamation/ restoration, notification, and reporting, the Commission said. The new regulation is intended to speed up the rate at which inactive wells are restored

to pre-activity conditions, the Commission said, and “ensures 100 per cent of the cost of reclaiming oil and gas sites continues to be paid for by industry.” A new liability levy to fund orphan site restoration is being phased in over three years, the Commission said, and replaces a previous fixed tax on marketable gas and petroleum. “The Commission is enhancing stringent checks of each company’s financial health and history with the continued goal to mitigate liability risk and minimize pressure on the Orphan Site Reclamation Fund (OSRF),” it noted in the release. “Every transaction is evaluated to make sure companies have the means to manage assets through to closure.” — Pipeline News North

Trans Mountain greenlit nelson bennett As expected, the Trudeau government has once again approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, although it is now likely to cost a lot more to complete, thanks to a year-long delay. “Today I am announcing that our government has newly approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project going forward,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced June 18. He added his government is open to First Nation ownership in the expanded pipeline, anywhere from 25% to 100%, and vowed that all profits from the pipeline – either through its sale or in future tax revenue from future owners - would be invested in “Canada’s clean energy transition.” “Additional corporate tax revenue alone could be around $500 million per year, once the project is up and running,” Trudeau said. “We will invest this money, as well as any profits from the sale of the pipeline in the clean energy projects.” Whether the government can make a profit on the sale of the expanded pipeline once complete is doubtful, however, given that the project could cost $2 billion more to build than the last estimate. The announcement was reliably slammed by environmental groups, and praised by business associations. It came one day after the Trudeau government declared a climate emergency, and environmental groups were quick to point out to the government’s apparent hypocrisy. Trudeau said Canada’s cap on oil sands emissions addresses

concerns about increased emissions from oil production in Alberta. He also addressed concerns that not all First Nations have given their consent to the expansion. “We recognize and understand that there are people out there for whom no amount of accommodations or conditions or changes to the plan would have made the ... approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion acceptable,” he said. “Those people will not be convinced by the argument that we put forward. We accept that. And they will use the legal means at their disposal to advance that argument.” Whether work will substantially start on the expansion in time for the federal election campaign in October remains to be seen. “The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau insisted. “We are ready to re-start the project,” said Ian Anderson, CEO of the Trans Mountain Corporation. But eight new accommodation measures to address First Nations concerns are now part of the approval, and there is some question over how much those new measures, which might even include some rerouting, may delay some of the construction. The announcement was presaged by the arrival by rail of tonnes of steel pipe at strategic locations along the pipeline route a week earlier. Trans Mountain confirmed about 30% of the pipe has been delivered to sites along the route, including the Lower Mainland. — Business in Vancouver



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Congratulations to Surerus for 50 years of hard work and success. Proud to be a supporting part of your legacy.

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The Surerus family would like to thank our community, employees, clients, vendors, suppliers and friends for their support over the last 50 years.

Safe Work. Quality Work. | Fort St. John | Gibbons, AB | Calgary