Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not commit to green-lighting the divisive Energy East pipeline today and instead slammed his predecessors for interfering in what he said should be a rigorous scientific process.
"One of the challenges we're in right now is that my predecessors have politicized that process. I'm not going to prejudge or shortcut the [National Energy Board] process as it goes forward," he said.
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Trudeau made the statement after meeting with several oil and gas industry leaders in Calgary on Thursday, some of whom were all smiles after speaking with the prime minister.
"What we got today was an understanding of the challenges we face," said Suncor Energy CEO Steve Williams, whose company — Canada's largest oilsands player — posted a net loss of $2 billion for the final three months of 2015.
Williams said the meeting was "very encouraging" and Trudeau listened to industry concerns about the price cycle of oil and market access during the roundtable, which included senior executives from Shell, Husky, Cenovus and other major firms, along with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.
Trudeau was also well-received at the second roundtable, which included representatives of the companies that provide goods and services to the oil and gas companies.
"It was a very good meeting. Informative on both sides, and I see the prime minister … understands the importance of the oil and gas industry to Canada, not just Alberta," said Ian McConnell, a vice-president at Core Laboratories.
"Getting access to markets is important and he understands that. From what he told us today, he's in favour of pipelines because it benefits all of Canada."
The head of the the Petroleum Services Association of Canada says Trudeau seems prepared to act as the champion for getting Alberta's oil to market.
"He appreciates it, he knows that it's not an easy task, but he's going to take it on for us. So we really appreciate that," he said.
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Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, who also took part in Thursday's roundtable, said no agreements were reached but it was a productive meeting.
"I think right now the prime minister is just listening and learning as much from the industry and the challenges," she said.
Trudeau met with Notley in Edmonton on Wednesday, where she says she impressed upon him how important pipelines are to the province in getting oilsands crude to tidewater and off to foreign markets.
She said the prime minister confirmed that millions of dollars are on the way from Ottawa to help offset the downturn in the energy sector.
Alberta will get nearly $700 million in federal infrastructure money "immediately." Ottawa also plans to grant the $250 million requested by Alberta under the fiscal stabilization fund.
CBC Forum: How should Canada help Alberta's economy?