Natural Resources minister defends Liberal decisions affecting energy industry in Calgary
Federal minister of Natural Resources visited Calgary to engage with business community Thursday
Pipelines, Bill C-69, climate change and carbon tax — all of these hot button topics were discussed Thursday afternoon as federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi visited Calgary to engage with the city's business community.
"Ever since taking office, our government has been focused on growing our economy, protecting our environment and making sure that we are creating opportunities for all Canadians," Sohi said.
"Within that commitment is ensuring we have a natural resources sector — and here in Alberta, an oil and gas sector that remains a source of well-paying, middle-class jobs for decades to come."
Sohi was hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce at the Fairmont Palliser hotel. Calgary Chamber president and CEO Sandip Lalli posed questions to the minister from the sold-out audience.
It's no surprise the conversation started with and repeatedly returned to the issue of pipelines as they've been the centre of political discourse in Alberta for years, and the focus of many local protests recently.
Over the course of the hour-long lunch, Sohi expressed continued support for not only getting the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion built, but also for Enbridge Line 3 and the potential future approval of Keystone XL.
Sohi admitted the government erred in the original application approval for the TMX project by not including the assessment of the West Coast tanker traffic and not doing more in-depth consultations with Indigenous communities.
"So when you go back, I think we got into this situation because we tried to cut corners."
He said that is what forced the delays that were seen in having the application reapproved.
"I'm pretty sure we will be taken to the court. That's the reality of the polarized political situation that we have in Canada. But I'm confident that because of all the work we have done that we are in a very strong position to defend our record."
On Bill C-69
Sohi used the problems and delays that had plagued the TMX project as proof that the system of approvals needed an overhaul and that Bill C-69 was a big part of that. He said if TMX was seeking its first approval after C-69 was implemented, "We would not be in this pickle today."
- Federal government accepts dozens of amendments to environmental review bill, rejects most of the Tory ones
The Liberals have been attacked on numerous fronts for the Bill C-69 legislation including by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and representatives from the Ontario and Saskatchewan governments. Kenney has frequently referred to C-69 as the "no pipelines bill."
But Sohi insisted the legislation would be good for Alberta's energy projects in the end.
"You remember the demonstrations throughout the country in 2012. Canadians were out marching in the street against the government because they felt that the balance was tilted, that balance of environmental sustainability and economic growth was due," Sohi said.
On climate change
Sohi reminded the crowd he is himself an Albertan, elected to represent Edmonton Mill Woods, and therefore he believes he has a better understanding of the province's dynamics. However, he said, concerns on climate change cannot be dismissed out of hand because of how polarized the issue has become.
"If Canadians are concerned about climate change and they understand that the oilsands are having an impact on climate change, then we need to demonstrate to them how we're taking action on climate change."
The Liberals have also faced criticism for their record on climate change action, including a report from the environment commissioner earlier this year that said Canada is not doing enough to lower emissions.