Calgary

Canada's new natural resources minister to make immediate visit to Alberta

The newest minister for Canada's natural resources ministry will waste no time jumping into the fray as a new cabinet for the Trudeau government attempts to parry back western resentment.

Newfoundland's Seamus O'Regan set to visit Calgary within days of appointment

Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan arrives for the swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 20, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The newest minister for Canada's natural resources ministry will waste no time jumping into the fray as a new cabinet for the Trudeau government attempts to parry back western resentment.

Seamus O'Regan, an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador, was named Canada's newest minister of natural resources Wednesday, moving from Indigenous services.

O'Regan will arrive in Calgary on Thursday. His office is working to arrange a meeting with Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage on Friday. The pair spoke earlier today from Rideau Hall.

Speaking to reporters, O'Regan said his pending trip to Calgary would be the first of many.

"We are very proud of the number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have helped build a great and proud industry in Alberta and Saskatchewan," he said.

"We have to figure out, in a time when many Canadians are concerned with climate change, how we ensure their prosperity and their stability while, at the same time, meeting the concerns surrounding this transition."

O'Regan was named to the position the same day the United Nations and research groups announced global fossil fuel production will be between 50 to 120 per cent over Paris Agreement targets by 2030.

"I'm trying to make sure we have an industry that is thriving, that people realize is stable, that people who work in it have stable incomes and can look forward to stable futures," O'Regan said. "How do we square that with our international commitments, and to an overriding concern from Canadians from all parts of the country that we need to do something on climate change? 

"That will be the challenge of my ministry, and indeed it will be the challenge of the entire government."

O'Regan, a former television personality from Newfoundland and Labrador, was elected in 2015 when the Liberal government swept all seven seats in the province.

He was named minister of veterans affairs in August 2017 — replacing former Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr — before being named minister of Indigenous services, replacing Jane Philpott.

O'Regan is also a long-time friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, having attended a controversial Trudeau family vacation in the Bahamas.

"It was personal time, private time. When I returned to Canada I went to the commissioner's office and voluntarily disclosed the trip," O'Regan told CBC in 2017, adding that he flew on his own and did not travel with the prime minister.

The Liberals did not win a seat in Alberta in the 2019 election after nabbing four in 2015, and O'Regan is likely to be tasked with bridging some lingering divides.

"People will scream one side or scream the other, but we as a government have a responsibility to find that muddled middle," O'Regan said Wednesday. "It is extremely important that we get this right. Oil and gas workers, people involved in the industry, people who are affected or serve the industry, are my constituents."

Kenney seeks ear of cabinet

Premier Jason Kenney urged the new federal cabinet ministers to listen to the province's concerns and to take them seriously.

He said in a statement that his government is willing to work with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his new cabinet to address issues the province red-flagged following last month's federal election.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, equalization payments and federal laws that Kenney says hurt Alberta's energy industry have all been brought up as concerns Ottawa must address.

The province is also challenging the federal carbon tax in court.

Kenney said his United Conservative government will continue to push for what he calls a fair deal for Alberta within Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press

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