Supporting Energy Development
Land: It’s our biggest resource. But companies must go down the proper channels to access and use land in the appropriate way for development projects. This complex process is made simpler for many of Canada’s biggest companies by Canada West Land Services.
For many of Canada’s biggest industries, particularly oil and gas, large amounts of land are required. But what many people may not be aware of is the amount of work that is required in order to fulfill the requirements for land use. Applications, permits, documentation, data management and stakeholder consultation all need to be considered, as well as the countless regulatory bodies. It is essential that these elements are handled prior to and during any project.
For over 40 years, Canada West Land Services (CWLS) has provided services for Energy, Municipal, and Infrastructure projects with comprehensive land solutions, public consultation services, and Indigenous Relations support. With strong relationships with stakeholders and Indigenous Communities that only longevity in the field can foster, CWLS provides unequaled service.
When we spoke with CEO, Doug Bedard, and Vice President, Mike Tidmarsh, CWLS had just experienced their most successful year to date, with record growth in their 40-year history. This milestone is a testament to the company’s exceptional client servicing through its commitment to their employees, teamwork, strong stakeholder relations and resilience during the challenging times of the industry.
Owners Doug Bedard and Jarvis Nicoll purchased CWLS in 2009. The two owners had worked in parallel at Ag West Land and saw CWLS as an opportunity to expand land services. At the time, the company consisted of less than 10 people. Since then, they have continued to grow their team, doubling annually, prior to the economic downturn of 2015. CWLS looks to continue growing both their land and Indigenous Relations business, as well as add key personnel for long-term sustainable growth.
A New Vision
The economic fallout from the 2015 oil price plunge hit Alberta hard, and CWLS felt its effects. However, as Bedard explains, the downturn served as a learning opportunity. The Company chose to focus on the work in the province that still needed to get done, despite the economy. “We were able to focus on the tasks that were still essential and needed to be completed,” he says. “That meant a lot more leg work and sales pitches, but we were able to grow market share and secure business. It was listening to the market and being very flexible that allowed us to be successful.”
Perhaps what has set CWLS apart is the team’s constant drive to expand the meaning of what land management services encompass. “Before I started at CWLS,” explains Tidmarsh, “I had a vision of what land management was and what it could be.” It’s hard to understate the amount of support CWLS will provide its clients, as working with stakeholders is just the start. “We also manage land acquisition services for clients, along with acquiring necessary permits and land rights to complete a wide range of projects like highways, transmission lines, pipelines, and wells.”
Clients also choose CWLS to manage their documentation through the regulatory bodies. They manage the project from inception through completion and navigate the processes and the multifaceted components. “We do the due diligence and public consultation, which I’m sure you’ve seen in the media has become increasingly important,” says Tidmarsh. “We work extensively with Indigenous Communities, stakeholders and the general public. We then compile and formulate all the responses from that process and negotiate for the land rights required by the project.”
CWLS then mitigates any issues and draws solutions for their clients to support construction. All compliance terms and conditions are met and lived up to throughout the life of the project. “The services we offer are essential to the successful development of these projects,” says Bedard.
CWLS’ measurement of success goes beyond the boardroom or the field. At the core of the company is the desire to give back. This is a fundamental part of the CWLS culture, and is done through fundraising, volunteering and donations. “Our standpoint is to look after the people in our backyard,” says Tidmarsh. “We want to benefit our employees and our employees’ families through local charities as large as the Children’s Hospital and as small as the local sports team. A great example of this occurred this fall when our Fort St. John office, quite on their own initiative, organized and participated in a local barbecue to raise $10,000 for a local family battling cancer. That was really nice to see.”
When asked what will bring CWLS into the next 40 years, Bedard summarizes it in one word: trust. “We’re very much a relationship-based industry. It’s extremely difficult to replicate because you’re dealing with public emotion.”
“Our ability to be very versatile to clients’ needs is huge,” says Tidmarsh. He adds that it is not unusual to see the same stakeholder upwards of 25 times in order to get them to the level they are comfortable with before signing off on a project. “We can deliver what we say, on time and on budget and that’s where the trust comes in.”
Going forward, CWLS is taking a proactive approach. Based on clients’ needs, they are now focusing on data management and aiming for clients to have information at their fingertips in order to make their jobs easier. “We’ve really been able to capitalize on and digitize the vast amount of input on any specific project and then provide visual representation through data mapping to our clients,” says Bedard. “These services have become increasingly valuable in our industry.”
“Our goal is to make our clients shine,” continues Tidmarsh. “Because we clearly understand what they need, we help them excel through the entire project life-cycle.”