Rex Murphy, in Weyburn, in 2019. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Hockey players grow up admiring Gretzky and Lemieux. As a columnist for over 30 years, I grew up admiring Allan Fotheringham and Rex Murphy.

Just as no one else could quite stick handle a puck like the Great One, no one else could really treat words in the same manner as Fotheringham and Murphy, but most particularly, Rex, as he was commonly referred. 

I had the privilege of briefly meeting, and shaking the hand, of Rex at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in 2019 and 2022. For each of those occasions, I videoed his speeches and posted them to YouTube.

Since then I must have watched the 2019 version at least 30 times, with no exaggeration, each time gleaning a bit more of his wisdom. Some people accused him of being a shill for oil and gas. It was clear he was no shill, but rather held a deep, heartfelt love of the sector, because it was oil and gas in the West that provided the salvation of his beloved home, Newfoundland, during its darkest hour. 

This is the column I wrote in 2019 after seeing him for the first time. A bit younger, obviously, he had more energy, more vigor, than he was able to muster three years later. Peak Rex, as it were. The video is posted later in this column, as is the 2022 version. 

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The oilpatch, and Alberta, saved Newfoundland: Rex Murphy

This year, the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show (also referred to as the Weyburn Oil Show) went all out in getting guest speakers, and they surely did not disappoint.

In the movie about the Watergate scandal, All the President’s Men, the secret source, Deep Throat, implores the intrepid journalists to “follow the money.” That is a notion Vivian Krause has done at great length over many years, and finally, in the last seven months or so, people have finally stood up and taken notice.

Krause has exposed the deep ties behind funding of various campaigns to landlock Canadian oil. She should be a rock star in the oilpatch, and I think she’s gaining a bit of that fame. She had very good attendance during her presentation, much better than most of the speakers I’ve seen over the last decade.

But it was the acerbic Rex Murphy, formerly of CBC and who does not appear to miss his former employer, who truly enraptured his audience on June 6.

Indeed, he wore his disdain for the Mother Corp, as it is known, quite clearly on his sleeve, especially their fawning for “Bishop Suzuki.”

To be clear, Rex Murphy is a Newfoundlander. He was not born a Canadian. He was born a Newfoundlander, when the Rock was still its own dominion, a sovereign state. He only became a Canadian at the age of 2, when the nearly destitute nation was absorbed into Canada as its 10th province. But you wouldn’t know that from his speech. Indeed, he is a Canadian through and through, and he spoke about unity.

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It was destitution that was very much a theme of his riveting speech. He spoke of how Newfoundland, and its people, were laid low by the cod fishing moratorium of 1992. With no work at home, in desperation, he estimated over 30,000 Newfoundlanders went west to find jobs. Many stayed in the order of a decade.

“Employment is not just a damn paycheque. It is the spine of most people’s existence,” Murphy said.

I should note that usually at these events, the speaker has to speak above the crowd. This time, you could hear a pin drop. And that crowd was easily twice as large as what one usually expects at one of these luncheon speakers.

 

“Outside of family life itself, and mortality, I don’t think there’s anything more savage to the human personality than someone who wishes to work and has been working, and works no more. And then they have to face the humiliations of either boring, begging, or going on some government program. Most people guard their dignity by their own self-reliance,” he said.

Murphy’s message was that when things were at their most bleak, those people came west. And we, in the west, with our oil and gas, had jobs. And paycheques. And as a result, these people were able to maintain, or reclaim, their dignity.

“It was one of the great moments of confederation that all people from all over Canada were summoned to the western provinces. And people from provinces who had never intermingled before, were working on the same project, or allied projects,” Murphy said.

And he’s right. I’ve worked on pipelines with Newfoundlanders. The commanding officer of the air cadet unit I was a part of in North Battleford called Fortune, Newfoundland, home. She was part of this great diaspora, and her sister and parents came, too. They came to the west, where there was work to be had. She spent many years as a grain buyer, if you can believe. But I digress.

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Murphy took expected potshots against Neil Young, Leonardo DiCaprio and Catherine McKenna, he spoke to the crowd about the absurdities of the movement against oil. Where were the protests against Russian oil? Or Nigerian? Why the “jihad against pipelines?”

He noted, “I cannot figure out. I do not know what processes are going on, in what strange minds, that has turned almost the entire energy of the country, especially at government level, and especially at various NGOs (non governmental organizations) and self-appointed monitors of the earth’s doom, that has made the oil industry the number one villain of the entire world.”

 

Rex Murphy has had the courage to tell Canadians for many years the truths many don’t want to acknowledge.

Fundamentally, he told the audience of the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show, rightly, that they were good people, doing good work, and providing good jobs. That was a message they needed to hear.

We, as Canadians need to hear it. In my own, much less impressive way, I gave a similar speech in tone and message a year ago. We, in the oilpatch, are not Darth Vader. We are not the devil.

This is what we need to stand up and say. And I am so glad I got to sit in the front row to hear it.

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline Online. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.

 

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