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Pat Daniel’s exit interview

In his final interview as president and CEO, Daniel reflects on 11-plus years at the helm of Enbridge

Oct 2, 2012

by Michael Ganley

I’d been trying to interview Enbridge’s departing president and CEO, Pat Daniel, for a couple of months. We’d heard he was leaving in December, and the initial plan was to follow him around for a day and do a full-length, day-in-the-life type story and publish it that month. But, as the company continues to deal with the fallout from its handling of the 2010 crude oil spill in Michigan, his final day was bumped up to the end of September. So I decided to do a quick interview, and then do our “Sphere of Influence” piece at the front of the magazine on Daniel and Enbridge and all that the two have accomplished – and suffered – since he took the top job on January 1, 2001.

We’ll still be running that piece in December. But the entire interview was interesting. It was done at 4:45 on his final day last Friday, one of his final acts in the big chair. He said his communications advisor “wanted me to truly appreciate retirement by having to do one more interview.”

Below is a transcript of that interview:

How does it feel to be here, in your final hours at the head of Enbridge?
“At this point it doesn’t feel any different than a normal day because we’ve been so busy through the summer and are so busy right now with everything that’s on our plate that I haven’t been able to taper down to retirement at all. I’m going to be going off a cliff tomorrow morning.”

Describe the highlights of your time leading Enbridge
“From a financial performance point of view we have been a stock that people have been able to rely on, even before the 2008-2009 crisis. We rode through the Enron collapse, which was quite closely related to our industry, very strongly as a steady, reliable, predictable investment proposition. Since then we’ve been able to add a growth element to that.

I’m also very proud of the fact that we’re one of the largest developers of renewables in the country. I firmly believe that, over time, the energy industry will transition from being very hydrocarbon based to one that is more renewables based. That is going to take a long time, but I wanted this company to start down that road and to participate in that transition and not be hauled along kicking and screaming.

I’m also very proud of something that I think is a little underappreciated by others and that is our neutral-footprint approach to development. We brought it forward at our annual meeting four or five years ago that for every tree we have to remove to clear a right-of-way we plant a tree; for every acre that we use, we conserve an acre to the Nature Conservancy; for every kilowatt of energy we use to push oil or gas through the pipes we generate a kilowatt of renewable energy. That, and we have a little “Energy 4 Everyone” foundation that puts employees around the world to volunteer to bring energy to people that don’t have access to it.”

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Describe the importance of Northern Gateway as you see it
“This is of strategic importance, recognizing that as the world and its trading patterns change, we as a major exporting nation have to change along with it. With the rise in prosperity and markets in Asia – China and India in particular – Canada needs to strengthen its trading relationships there. That’s the opportunity that Gateway offers. A lot of Canadians wouldn’t realize that crude oil is our number one export and that we only have one market for it. I don’t think there’s another nation in the world that has its number one export go to only one market.”

Had you hoped to wrap up the Gateway project before retiring?
“It was never my expectation because I realized it was going to be a long process. We proposed Gateway 13 years ago and we realize it’s going to be a long regulatory process. It brings together a lot of issues that Canadians are wrestling with right now, from First Nations land claims settlement issues to a strong debate around the oil sands and a strong debate around oil use in general. So we knew it was going to be a long regulatory process. I’m 66, and there’s a point when you can’t keep others waiting in the company too long. We have some bright young stars here and it was time for me to pass the baton.”

You’re handing off to Al Monaco. Tell me about him
“Al is an outstanding executive. He is energetic. He has broad exposure to the industry and a very good knowledge of the industry. He works very hard and is very aware of the people around him. I think he’s committed to keeping this story going and is the perfect guy to run the company.”

Enbridge has also been the subject of harsh criticisms lately. Do they have merit?
“The criticisms have been heightened and put under a magnifying glass as a result of the profile of the Gateway project. Those opposed to Gateway have magnified the nature of the issues. The thing I think many Canadians don’t appreciate is that we operate by far the biggest crude oil pipeline system in the world. It is a mechanical operation and we have a spill rate that is about half the industry average. The challenge with that much mechanical equipment is that you are going to occasionally have incidents. We do our very best to minimize them. We spend more than the rest of the world combined doing inline inspections in our systems. I don’t think Canadians realize how much we put into pipeline maintenance and inspection.”

What will you do now?
“I’m going to try not to do too much. I’ve been so busy for so long that I’m going to take at least until the next of the year to wind down. I’m going to try and say no to requests for other boards. There’s one big charitable cause that I know I’m going to have a hard time saying no to that I’ll probably get involved with before the end of the year. I need a bit of time to reflect and to think and to spend some time with my grandchildren and get back to a more normal life. The CEO job is a 24/7, 365 days per year thing so it’s hard to think of anything else when you’re in this job.”

Any final comment?
“Enbridge is a company that Canadians should be proud of. We’ve been around for 160 years in the gas distribution business and 60-some years in the crude oil business and when you’re the biggest and recognized as the best in the world I would hope that Canadians would be proud of that.”

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