MPs debate decision by Teck Resources to abandon proposed oilsands project

MPs in the House of Commons spent Tuesday evening debating a decision by Teck Resources Ltd. to withdraw its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta, citing the ongoing debate over climate policy in Canada.

Conservative MP blames Trudeau government for Teck's decision, while Bloc MP says Alberta is to blame

MPs participated in an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Teck Resources Ltd.'s decision on Sunday to withdraw its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta. (Benoit Roussel/CBC)

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs opened a debate in the House of Commons over the now abandoned Teck Frontier mine project by accusing the federal Liberal government of discouraging investment in Canada's energy sector.

Stubbs said that by passing anti-oil legislation such as the new environmental assessment legislation and the partial oil tanker ban off B.C.'s west coast, the Liberal government has sent a message to industry. 

"It seems like, in this House of Commons, it's only Conservatives who would be outraged at divisive political attacks on the lifeblood and industries of particular provinces and regions of the country," Stubbs said. 

"But this prime minister decided that his political gains were more important than the unity of our [nation]."

MPs in the House of Commons spent Tuesday evening debating a decision by Teck Resources Ltd. to withdraw its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta, citing the ongoing debate over climate policy in Canada.

The mine reportedly would have created 7,000 construction jobs, 2,500 operating jobs, and brought in more than $70 billion in government revenue.

Stubbs, MP for the Alberta riding of Lakeland, requested the debate after the company took a $1.13-billion writedown on the Teck Frontier mine project, which would have produced 260,000 barrels of oil a day once fully operational.

'No constructive path forward': CEO

In Teck Resources' letter announcing the decision, the company's CEO stressed that the company believes "deeply in the need to address climate change" and that Canada's potential will not be realized "until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed." 

Teck CEO and president Don Lindsay wrote that customers want policies that reconcile resource development and climate change — something he said the region has yet to achieve. He did not clarify whether the region he was referring to was Alberta or Canada.

"Unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project," Lindsay said in a letter addressed to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson Sunday evening.

Teck's Frontier oilsands project was planned for northern Alberta. The company pulled its application for the project on Sunday. (CBC News)

Stubbs said the Teck Frontier mine met all required environmental approvals and should have gone forward — but the Liberals' delays and stalling unnerved the company.  

"Canadian oilsands producers lead the way. They've reduced emissions per barrel by 32 per cent since 1990, compared to resources of similar kind around the world," she said. "Canadian energy and oilsands can be the future, not the sunset and it should be … for Canada and for the world." 

Bloc Québécois MP Mario Simard dismissed the condemnation being levelled at the Liberal government, instead insisting Alberta was to blame for its own misfortunes. 

"My colleague began by saying oil represents the future of Canada. Well, that's a dark future, as far as I am concerned," Simard said in French. 

"The main problem of Alberta is that they put all their eggs in one basket, that is to say; oil, and they've never diversified."

The sinking price of oil

Stubbs dismissed Simard's suggestion as a "myth," saying that an analysis of Alberta's workforce would show it is the third most diversified economy in Canada. 

Liberal Wayne Easter, the MP for the P.E.I riding of Malpeque, dismissed Stubbs' suggestion that the Liberal government was at fault insisting the global market price for oil likely had much more to do with Teck's decision. 

"Trying to blame everything on the prime minister is not the answer," said Easter. "Does [Stubbs] really think that the price of oil and the market had nothing to do with this decision?

"It requires $92 a barrel of oil for this to be successful. Oil is nowhere near there and looks like it's not going to get there. So lets have some real facts on the table here." 

Heated rhetoric 

NDP MP Richard Cannings, the MP for the B.C. riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay, said that he speaks with officials from Teck every year and they tell him the price of oil is central to their decision making process. 

"For the last five years I've been hearing from Teck … and they've always prefaced in the discussions about the oilsands projects as that the price of oil is paramount and they just don't see a way forward at this time," Cannings said. 

"It's not the spot price of oil. The price of oil is predicted not to go above $60 to $70 for the next  20 years."

Stubbs dismissed notions that the price of oil was related to Teck's decision saying that anyone who says the price of oil had anything to do with the decision to abandon the proposed mine "shows they have no understand at all about it."

"Here's what's ridiculous, that that member would stand in this House and pretend that multi-billion dollar companies, making multi-billion dollar, high risk, capital intensive, long-term investments, actually base their decisions on the spot price of oil on a daily basis," Stubbs said, directing her comments at Easter. "I mean how ridiculous. Are these guys actually serious?"   

Cathay McLeod, the Conservative MP for the B.C riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, pointed out that Teck's Lindsay did not mention anything about the price of oil in his letter to Wilkinson. 

"This company did not pull out four days before a decision was made because of the price of oil. This company looked at the price and was in there," she said. 

Wilkinson derided the heated debate over resource development in Canada saying that all members of all parties needed to come together to help battle climate change. 

"The enemy is climate change, not each other," he said. "In short, it requires a national consensus and a team effort and that national consensus must include Canada's oil and gas sector."

With files from the CBC's Sarah Rieger