Politics

Trudeau's 'weak leadership' drove Teck mine away, Andrew Scheer says

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer today accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of driving away energy sector investment, saying his "weakness and fear" in dealing with opponents of oilsands development killed the Teck Frontier project "through delay and by constantly moving the goalposts."

Jason Kenney says Liberal government lacks 'courage to defend the interests of Canadians'

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's approach to rail blockades and the approval of the Teck Frontier oilsands mine is driving business investment out of Canada. (The Canadian Press )

Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer today accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of driving away energy sector investment, saying his "weakness and fear" in dealing with opponents of oilsands development killed the Teck Frontier project "through delay and by constantly moving the goalposts."

Scheer's office issued a statement today after speaking with Trudeau earlier Monday. In it, Scheer claims Trudeau showed "weak leadership" in his response to rail blockades and argues the resulting "political unrest" led Vancouver-based Teck Resources to withdraw its application to build a massive oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

"Highlighting how Mr. Trudeau's weakness and fear in dealing with his left-wing caucus and radical activists forced him to kill this project through delay and by constantly moving the goalposts, Mr. Scheer asked the prime minister why the Teck Frontier Project approval sat on his desk since July," said the statement from Scheer's office.

The statement goes on to say that "the prime minister's weakness over the last few weeks has sent a signal to businesses across Canada that the rule of law will not be upheld, court injunctions will not be enforced and major projects cannot get built."

The statement says Trudeau has to take stronger action before protests "shut down the economy completely."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney described Teck's announcement as a grave disappointment for Albertans.

"Let me be clear, this decision was taken in large part because of regulatory uncertainty and endless delays created by the national government as well as the general lawlessness that we have seen take hold in parts of our country," Kenney said in a speech in Edmonton Monday.

"This should have been a straightforward and automatic approval after it went through nine years of exhaustive environmental review, according to the world's most rigorous standards."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Teck's decision to withdraw an application to build a massive oilsands project was a devastating blow to his province. (Amber Bracken/Canadian Press)

Kenney said the weeks-long rail blockade and infrastructure disruptions that resulted from Indigenous-led protests sent the wrong signal to the private sector.

Kenney said he has spoken to major investors in recent days who said they have lost in faith in Canada as place to invest capital because of the "appearance of anarchy in parts of this country."

"We send a very clear message: We need national leadership to ensure that Canada is a country characterized by the rule of law," he said.

"We need actions, actions that will restore investor confidence and demonstrate that there is a path forward for the industry that has done more to create middle-class jobs than any other in modern Canadian history."

Some Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, opposed to a natural gas pipeline being constructed through their traditional territory, had blocked access to a construction site for the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

While the project was supported by the elected Indian Act band councils, the hereditary chiefs said they had not given their express consent to the proponent, TC Energy, to build the natural gas pipeline on territory they say is theirs.

That defiance has inspired other activists and Indigenous groups to launch railway and port blockades that have restricted the transport of goods across the country. 

After two weeks of protests, Trudeau said last week that efforts to engage in dialogue with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs had failed and it was time for the barricades to come down.

This morning, the Ontario Provincial Police began moving against the rail blockade near Belleville, Ont., where protests by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga have crippled passenger and freight train traffic.

Scheer has criticized Trudeau's decision to not order police action sooner, saying the climate of lawlessness is driving energy investment away from Canada and into other countries, including the United States.

Teck calls it quits

Teck Resources Ltd. announced late Sunday it had withdrawn its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta on Sunday, citing the ongoing debate over climate policy in Canada.

The federal government was to issue a decision this week on whether to approve the $20.6-billion, 260,000-barrel-per-day Teck Frontier mine.

Two First Nations women hug on the south side of the blockade train tracks in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., today, as they protest in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en Nation hereditary chiefs attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territories. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

The company said it will take a $1.13-billion writedown on the project, which it said would have created 7,000 construction jobs and 2,500 operating jobs while bringing in more than $70 billion in government revenue.

Cabinet was expected to discuss the project at its meeting on Tuesday. It had until the end of the week to make a decision, though it could have decided to push that deadline back.

The project was expected to produce about four million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year over its 40 year lifespan, and disturb 292 square kilometres of pristine wetlands and boreal forest.

In July 2019, a joint federal-provincial review panel recommended the mine be approved, saying the economic benefits outweighed what it described as significant adverse environmental impacts.

Even if the project had been approved by Ottawa, the Frontier mine would have faced an uncertain future.

Donald Lindsay, the president and CEO of Teck, had said his company needed "3 Ps" for the project to be viable: a partner to help shoulder the $20.6 billion construction price tag, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and a better price for oil to make its development more viable over the long term.

The project was first pitched when oil prices were much higher than they are today. Teck had assumed oil prices would exceed US$95 per barrel when the project was proposed; that's 70 per cent higher than the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) closing price on Monday.

The International Energy Agency suggested in its 2019 global outlook that prices per barrel could fall to US$59 per barrel by 2040 if the world embraces less carbon-intensive energy policies.

In his letter announcing the company's decision to cancel Frontier, Lindsay said Canada needs to foster greater regulatory certainty for would-be investors through a more cohesive energy policy that includes a climate action strategy and an Indigenous rights framework.

He did not cite the Wet'suwet'en-inspired protesters or the prime minister's handling of the resulting blockades.

"It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward. Ultimately, that should take place without a looming regulatory deadline," Lindsay said.

"The promise of Canada's potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development. Without clarity on this critical question, the situation that has faced Frontier will be faced by future projects and it will be very difficult to attract future investment, either domestic or foreign."

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa isn't to blame for the Teck decision.

"Teck made the decision to withdraw. We respect that decision," Wilkinson said in an interview with CBC's Power & Politics.

Wilkinson wouldn't say whether he supported Teck's project.

In response to Scheer's claim that the Liberal government should have acted faster on a decision, given that regulators approved the project last summer, Wilkinson said a February decision date was reasonable because of the fall election.

"We had an election ... a new minister who wanted to understand the file," Wilkinson said. He said cabinet would have had to deliver a final decision on the project by the end of the month, as the legislated timeline demands.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, accused Trudeau of going too far by demanding the barricades come down.

"Everyone involved, from hereditary chiefs to the CEOs, are looking to find a peaceful de-escalation. Everyone except the prime minister, who's taking notes from Andrew Scheer," Singh said on Twitter. "Violent and reckless actions repeat a history that divides people even more."

 

 

 

With files from the CBC's Sarah Rieger

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