Min­is­ters de­fend pipe­line ex­pan­sion

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS - SHAWN McCARTHY

Pro­vin­cial, fed­eral cabi­net mem­bers de­bate fu­ture of Canada’s en­ergy sec­tor, in­clud­ing In­dige­nous, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns

Canada’s tran­si­tion to a low-car­bon fu­ture must in­clude new pipe­lines to ex­pand oil ex­ports to a di­verse global mar­ket­place, fed­eral and Al­berta min­is­ters told an en­ergy con­fer­ence in Win­nipeg on Thurs­day.

In a panel dis­cus­sion fea­tur­ing fed­eral and pro­vin­cial min­is­ters, Al­berta En­ergy Min­is­ter Mar­garet McCuaig-Boyd warned Ottawa against adopt­ing an “ex­treme” reg­u­la­tory ap­proach that would dis­cour­age in­vest­ment in the oil and gas sec­tor.

Sit­ting next to her, B.C. En­ergy Min­is­ter Michelle Mun­gall stressed that the new pro­vin­cial govern­ment’s en­ergy pol­icy is fo­cus­ing on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with In­dige­nous peo­ple, a pointed ref­er­ence to op­po­si­tion by sev­eral First Na­tions to the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line project.

In the dis­cus­sion, Ms. McCuaigBoyd and fed­eral Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jim Carr sug­gested the fos­sil-fuel in­dus­try re­mains a crit­i­cal part of the coun­try’s econ­omy and must have ac­cess to grow­ing de­mand in Asian mar­kets.

“There is an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for Cana­dian pro­duc­tion [of oil and gas] in Asia,” Mr. Carr said. “That’s why we ap­proved the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line.”

How­ever, the Al­berta min­is­ter ex­pressed con­cerns that Ottawa is hand­i­cap­ping the in­dus­try with reg­u­la­tory un­cer­tainty. She crit­i­cized the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment for be­ing “cheer­lead­ers” for the sec­tor, but warned Ottawa “not to swing the pen­du­lum to the other ex­treme.”

The fed­eral govern­ment is cur­rently re­vamp­ing the Na­tional En­ergy Board and Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment Agency, which are re­spon­si­ble for en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments of re­source projects. “We don’t want things to get so over­lapped that it ac­tu­ally length­ens the time for any projects be­cause that’s go­ing to scare away inves- tors,” Ms. McCuaig-Boyd said. “If it’s eas­ier to do busi­ness else­where, that’s where the money will go.”

Some en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists ex­pressed con­cern that Ottawa and Al­berta are pro­mot­ing the ex­pan­sion of crude ex­ports from the oil sands. The min­is­ters’ com­ments were “dis­turbingly lack­ing in recog­ni­tion of the chal­lenges of cli­mate change,” said Adam Scott, of the ad­vo­cacy group Oil Change In­ter­na­tional.

In a court chal­lenge now un­der way, Ottawa and Al­berta are defending the fed­eral ap­proval of the ex­pan­sion project, which would triple the pipe­line’s ca­pac­ity to carry crude to Van­cou­ver har­bour. B.C.’s NDP govern­ment has in­ter­vened in sup­port of sev­eral First Na­tions and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that are chal­leng­ing the project.

Ms. Mun­gall said her govern­ment is com­mit­ted to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with First Na­tions and ar­gued Ottawa ne­glected that re­spon­si­bil­ity by ap­prov­ing Kinder Mor­gan Inc.’s Trans Moun­tain project.

“It re­ally is in­cum­bent on the fed­eral govern­ment to be work­ing with those First Na­tions in terms of what their con­cerns are, rather than just bar­relling through,” she said.

Mr. Carr is lead­ing the fed­eral ef­fort to forge a pan-Cana­dian en­ergy strat­egy in or­der to im­ple­ment the poli­cies and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion needed to move to an af­ford­able, low-car­bon en­ergy econ­omy.

In an in­ter­view at the end of the con­fer­ence, Mr. Carr said the govern­ment will use the dis­cus­sion – which in­cluded en­ergy ex­ec­u­tives and ex­perts from across the spec­trum – to in­form its emerg­ing en­ergy strat­egy.

While ten­sions between oil and gas in­ter­ests and clean-en­ergy ad­vo­cates were ap­par­ent over the two days, Mr. Carr ar­gued new bridges have been built.

“I think, as we emerge on the other side [of the dis­cus­sion], peo­ple do see that there is a role for tra­di­tional in­dus­try, there is a role for pri­vate en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion, and that we have the best chance of lead­ing the world if we work to­gether to­wards a com­mon ob­jec­tive.”

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jim Carr sug­gests the fos­sil-fuel in­dus­try is still a crit­i­cal part of Canada’s econ­omy.

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