Nfld. & Labrador

O'Regan quiet on support for Bay du Nord project following 2nd delay

A delay to the decision date for the proposed Bay du Nord oil project has left Newfoundland and Labrador's Conservative leader with concerns, and one of the province's members of Parliament quiet on if he outrightly supports the project.

Decision on project was delayed by 40 days last week

Cabinet minister won't give straight answer in support for Bay du Nord project

5 months ago
Duration 2:07
Seamus O'Regan says discussions on whether he supports the proposed Bay du Nord project should stay behind cabinet doors.

A delay to the decision date for the proposed Bay du Nord oil project has left Newfoundland and Labrador's Conservative leader with concerns, and one of the province's members of Parliament quiet on if he outrightly supports the project.

Pressed by reporters Tuesday on the delay and whether he supports the project, St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP and cabinet minister Seamus O'Regan didn't give a straight answer — adding those conversations should be kept behind cabinet doors.

"The work that I do as Newfoundland and Labrador's cabinet minister is very much within the cabinet room," O'Regan said during a federal funding announcement at St. John's International Airport on Tuesday.

"I think if you look over the past two years at the $8 billion … in investments that I think we've gotten in the province in the past two years, I think the performance from me and this government speaks for itself."

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has asked for a maximum of 40 additional days to make a decision on the proposed offshore oil project, saying more time is needed to decide if the project is likely to cause "significant adverse environmental effects."

With water depths of some 1,200 metres, Equinor's Bay du Nord project will use a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, better known as an FPSO, like the one illustrated. Equinor officials say a final investment decision is expected within two years, with first oil before the end of the decade. (Equinor)

O'Regan had previously defended the project in early February, but his office told CBC News on Feb. 10 that he was unable to comment as the project is "under active review."

Asked why the delay was necessary, O'Regan stated multiple times that Guilbeault is entitled to have more time to make a decision.

"The work I do is kind of behind the scenes. So all I can say on it is that the minister asked for more time," O'Regan said. 

"I don't think this is going to drag on forever. We want a quick resolution to it. But he's asked for a little more time, so he gets a little more time."

Feds should be prepared for rejection: N.L. opposition

Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Leader David Brazil says he believes the Bay du Nord project will move forward, but says the two delays that have already happened are concerning.

"We've sort of labelled what's happening here as either disgruntled people from other provinces … or that our case hasn't been sold in the manner it should be. And that's why we're helping to take the lead here," Brazil said Tuesday.

"We're hopeful that at the end of the day, people just wanted to ensure that what they were doing was in the best interest of the environment and the economy. And that at the end of the day they'll understand the value of this project and why it should proceed forward."

Opposition leader David Brazil says if the project is rejected, 'Newfoundland and Labrador will be in a very dark place.' (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Brazil said work to help people understand the project's importance has involved connecting with federal MPs, Premier Andrew Furey and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He said the delays send a negative message to companies looking to enter the province as well as providing potential benefits to the province's economy.

"The oil industry is not only about the three or four-thousand that work directly in it. It's the tens of thousands of other jobs that it supports in the service industry, in the purchasing industry," Brazil said.

"This has to go forward. I can't even imagine the impact if it doesn't. But if it doesn't, Newfoundland and Labrador will be in a very dark place."

If the project is rejected, Brazil said, the federal government needs to have a contingency plan in place to help those who would be affected.

"The federal liberals here need to find an investment process here and a program that transitions all of those workers that ensures rural N.L. and urban N.L. still is sustainable," he said.

"I don't know what their plan is. I hope we never get there."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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