New energy minister Sohi to tackle ‘challenging portfolio’
OTTAWA Amarjeet Sohi will take over the energy file just as the federal government wraps up its purchase of Trans Mountain pipeline next month, a crucial juncture for the government as it also looks to carry out a dramatic overhaul of Canada’s review process for major projects.
Sohi, formerly the infrastructure minister, was named minister of natural resources in a cabinet shuffle Wednesday. His predecessor Jim Carr was moved to the international trade diversification file.
The member of Parliament for Edmonton-Mill Woods will assume the position just as the federal government prepares to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and related assets from Kinder Morgan Inc. for $4.5 billion, apart from roughly $6 billion to build the expansion pipelines, which will likely require recruiting other investors.
The decision effectively nationalized the pipeline, placing Canada’s pipeline politics front and centre as the federal government aims to balance its ambitious environmental goals with Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“It’s going to be a really challenging portfolio for him,” said Martha Hall Findlay, president and CEO of the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation. “Minister Sohi now is facing not only the fact that resources are clearly hugely important in Canada, but it’s also intertwined with the environmental agenda of the government.”
Sohi told reporters that he had “big shoes to fill” and repeated the federal Liberals’ pledge to build the pipeline.
Sohi’s appointment also comes as Bill C-69 enters the Senate. Findlay and others have been critical of the environmental assessment bill, saying it gives the environment minister added discretionary power over whether a project goes ahead, and introduces uncertainty around major projects.