Calgary·Q&A

'Anything is a potential target': Could Trump focus on Alberta oil next?

Many observers think U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be aching for a trade war, which puts Canada in uncharted territory after decades of a generally good relationship.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Perrin Beatty says all bets are off, and it could be devastating

Canadian Chamber of Commerce president weighs in on US-Canada trade concerns 4:31

Many observers think U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be aching for a trade war, which puts Canada in uncharted territory after decades of a generally good relationship.

The president and chief executive officer at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Perrin Beatty, says there's no way to predict what happens next, in an interview with CBC Calgary News at Six on Thursday.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can watch the complete interview here.


Q: With the Canadian-U.S. trade relationship so unpredictable right now, could Donald Trump take aim at our energy sector?

A: Anything is a potential target. We are in completely uncharted waters at this point.

Q: How big a deal would that be?

A: It would be massive, in the same way as he is threatening to target the automotive sector in Ontario.

One of things we have to recognize is that we have moved from a situation where the United States has been our best ally, our best customer, our best friend to where we have a new administration in Washington which is targeting Canada at this point.

It means that nobody can assume they are safe and can't be targeted by some action out of the U.S.

Q: Recent figures show oil and gas made up $114 billion of Canada's GDP last year, that's compared to $18 billion from the auto sector. Do Ottawa politicians understand the enormity of this situation?

A: Everybody at this point is trying to digest where we are in terms of the relationship with the U.S. After the G7, we saw the U.S. president putting Canada in his gun sights. What that means, we don't know.

We do know that on July 1, Canada will be announcing retaliatory tariffs because of the tariffs against Canadian aluminium and steel. Trump has threatened to retaliate against those measures. He has threatened the auto sector. He has already acted against softwood lumber and newsprint.

No one knows what might be next.

There is a growing awareness in the business community that it isn't business as usual any more.

From the point of view of our own security, how do we ensure that we can supply Canadians from Canadian sources? We are also a major importer of oil from the United States.

Energy East was an example of a project that would have freed Eastern Canada from its dependence on imported oil and would have allowed us to be supplied by western Canadian oil.

Q: Are you confident the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will go ahead?

A: I am much more confident after the government's announcement that it will be built, because it means the government was committing itself to get it built.

I was less sure before that.

What is important here, is that having the government buy the pipeline was no one's first choice. It wasn't B.C.'s, it wasn't Alberta's, it wasn't the Canadian Chamber's, it wasn't the environmental lobbyists'.  But it represents today the only way we can be certain that indeed the pipeline will be built and that Alberta oil will have access to tidewater.

So let's get on with it, get the construction done and then return the project to the private sector.


With files from CBC Calgary News at Six