Federal energy minister meets with oil industry officials in Calgary

CALGARY – Canada’s new natural resources minister met with his Alberta counterpart and oil industry executives in Calgary on Wednesday but gave them little to cheer about.

“Canadians elected a new government and they expect a new approach,” said James Carr to executives attending the Canadian Energy Person of the Year Awards.

“There may have been a time when people thought we had to choose between energy development or environmental stewardship. Today we know environment responsibility is a necessary condition for energy development,” he added.

Carr praised the NDP government of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley for its ambitious policy to reduce carbon.

Alberta will introduce a broad-based carbon tax that would apply across the economy. The government will move to phase out the province’s coal-fired power generation by 2030.

The province will also introduce a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions for the oilsands.

“The prospect just the other day of an NDP premier, standing side-by-side with leaders of the sector and the NGO community all at the same time was truly an historic moment and shows that the willingness to collaborate is what’s going to be essential as we move forward. Alberta has already demonstrated its strong leadership,” Carr said.

He met with about 20 oil executives as well as Alberta Natural Resources Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd earlier in the day.

Carr repeated earlier comments that reviews of major energy projects such as pipelines will go through a “transition phase” while public confidence in the process is restored.

He told reporters that the transition process is being worked out and it’s still too early to say how long a project could be delayed other than it wouldn’t be forced to go “back to square one”.

Although Carr said getting energy resources to market is a priority, there is no guarantee that any of the pipelines transporting oil to tidewater will be completed.

“We’re not in the business of issuing guarantees. We’re in the business of ensuring fair processes and that’s what we intend to do.”

Carr said he wasn’t meeting with members of the energy sector to boost their spirits.

“The message is that we’re starting a new government at a critical time in the history of the energy sector in Canada, that we are committed to the dual ambitions of the economic growth and sustainable environmental practices and that’s the way we look at the future unfolding.”

Carr said he has sympathy for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs and are enduring “hardship” in the oil and gas sector but said the only solution to a more prosperous future will be through investments into new technologies and innovation.