Canada’s big banks have come under increased pressure in recent years to halt financial support for the oil and gas sector and redirect their resources to help lead the charge into greener energy, but the head of BMO Capital Markets says there’s reason to support traditional and alternative energy firms. 

While the transition to more environmentally-friendly energy sources has picked up steam, the world is still a long way from being able to abandon fossil fuels all together. That’s why Dan Barclay, chief executive officer of BMO Capital Markets, says until there is sufficient investment in what he refers to as “new” energy, financial support to traditional oil and gas firms can’t be abandoned. 

“What we’ve learned in the last little while is we haven’t had enough investment in the ‘new.’ And so we need to have a very, very thoughtful and progressive transition,” he said in an interview Monday. 

“The transition is how do we go from old to new - and you have to reduce the amount you have in old - but you have to have the equal and offsetting amount in new,” Barclay said.

He said he was encouraged by the way many companies are focused on moving to greener energy sources, but acknowledged significant work is needed on infrastructure to facilitate the transition. 

“Simple things like the electricity grid to power [electric] cars – we have a long way to go to make that grid robust enough…nevermind charging stations,” he said. 

“So the age of the fossil fuel car being dead is a long, long time away from now.” 

Barclay said he is expecting another strong year of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in 2022, including in the energy sector as commodity prices remain strong. 

And while there might be differences among the big Canadian banks in how they approach financing oil and gas deals, Barclay said BMO is still willing to play a role.  

“We believe in energy and we believe in the Canadian energy story in particular, and we believe in a smart transition. So we’ll continue to support our clients in the energy business, especially those that are doing a smart transition to a lower carbon future.”