Expansion of Transmountain pipeline ‘priority’ for government, Trudeau says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended his brief trip to Regina on Friday much the way he spent the start of the trip a night earlier — responding to questions about the need for more pipelines and a carbon tax.
There have been several large protests around the Prairies in oil-producing areas over a lack of pipeline access, prompting Trudeau to tell reporters he “understands concerns” from people over the “soft” price of oil and the resulting differential price.
Every U.S. dollar increase or decrease in the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil price amounts to a $16-million difference in Saskatchewan government revenues.
The higher the differential between WTI and Western Canadian Select ( WCS) — the standard used when looking at Canadian-produced oil — the more money the government stands to lose. Recently, the differential has hovered around US$32.50 a barrel.
If the difference were to stay that large over a full year, Saskatchewan government officials estimate it would cost he province $300 million to $350 million in royalties and cost the industry between approximately $4.4 billion and $5.3 billion.
This is one reason why people are protesting: They want pipelines built, so Saskatchewan and Canadian produced oil can be sold somewhere other than the United States.
Trudeau echoed those concerns Friday, saying, “We are prisoners of the United States market for our oil resources in the oilsands, we do not have access to markets other than the United States, and that is why moving forward in the right way, the Transmountain expansion is a priority for this government.”
He added this is why the federal government decided to purchase the Transmountain pipeline for $4.5 billion.
“That is the focus we have, because we know getting our resources to markets has been a long-standing request and need of the oil industry in the oilsands,” he said.
The prime minister then attacked the previous Conservative government’s record of getting pipelines built, saying they ignored the Indigenous consultation required to do so.
“They failed, that’s not the way to get resources built,” he said. “Anyone who thinks you can snap your fingers and build a pipeline doesn’t understand that’s not the way we do things in Canada anymore.”
He noted how when the railroad was built “nobody checked” to see if First Nations communities approved.
The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the National Energy Board approval of Transmountain, citing improper consultation with Indigenous communities and a lack of review of the marine shipping issue. The decision laid out some specific things Canada and the NEB have to do if they want to get the pipeline approved again.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe did not meet with Trudeau during the visit; both claimed scheduling conflicts as the reason why.
But Trudeau did respond to questions about his government imposing a carbon tax on the province and Moe’s continued opposition to it, which has culminated in a court challenge to be heard next month over the issue.
Trudeau said, “There is too much pollution in our atmosphere because for too long pollution has been free. By putting a price on pollution, we will get less of it” because businesses and people will choose alternative sources of energy.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talk about fresh water management during a roundtable in Regina on Friday. Trudeau wrapped up a brief visit to the city later in the day.