When I left the private sector in 2015 to run for federal office, it was with the express intent to put Edmonton back on the national map and to make sure that the voices of Albertans would be heard loudly and clearly inside a Liberal government. My colleagues, Minister Amarjeet Sohi, the Hon Kent Hehr, and I have been able to do just this since we were elected in October of 2015.
While on many measures we are making lives better for Albertans, including lifting tens of thousands of children out of poverty, and helping Albertans to create 100,000 full-time jobs since 2017. We know that sustained low oil prices, the differential price for Western Canada Select, and the federal court ruling on TMX expansion have hurt Albertans. We hear you. We feel and share your frustration. We know the stress that these developments are causing for you and your families. We are proud of the energy industry and the people that work hard to support themselves and the rest of the country. We want you to go back to work and to support your families. Our government does. Canadians do.
I also made a promise to the residents of Edmonton Centre to neither sugar coat issues nor to steer clear of hard questions. That also means, not sitting idly by, while other forces use misinformation or lies to sow fear and distrust among Canadians. Using the economics of the oil and gas sector to stoke the fires of western alienation and Alberta’s secession from Canada should be beneath elected officials past and present. Sadly, this holiday season has seen retired, fired and current conservative MPs, MLAs, former Ministers and party leaders pick up this tired old refrain. They are attempting to rattle Albertans by painting the federal government as distant and uncaring.
This is a familiar movie. I watched it as a boy when Premier Peter Lougheed positioned the federal government as the province’s Official Opposition. I saw the same movie play out again, though with slightly different lines, when Premier Klein attacked Prime Minister Chretien on policy matters to attempt to distract Albertans from the deep cuts he subjected us to in education, health and infrastructure. We are seeing the same movie again with UCP Leader Jason Kenney and Premier Rachel Notley. In some respects, it is simply smart provincial politics. As long as facts are facts, and there is a tangible goal at the end of such jurisdictional wrangling, it makes for good spectacle and on occasion, helpful policy outcomes.
Yet I cannot and will not stand on the sidelines when falsehoods take over from facts. I know that Albertans are feeling that successive layers of regulations and delays are somehow being orchestrated to frustrate our energy sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. This sector is of national importance, it is a source of national pride and hundreds of government and elected officials are seized with energy issues every day. So here are the real facts on a range of issues related to the energy sector, Alberta, and the current Trudeau Liberal government.
We three Alberta Liberal MPs and our government want the TMX expansion built. So do our colleagues. At the top of that list is Prime Minister Trudeau. He decided to invest $4.5 billion in the existing pipeline so that we could expand it, in the right way. Without our purchase of the line, the TMX project would be dead.
Our government did not shut down Energy East. The CEO of Trans-Canada Pipelines, Russ Girling, made a business decision to pull the Energy East project because it was no longer financially viable. Trans-Canada owns both Keystone XL and Energy East. At a dinner in Ottawa in May of 2017, I asked Mr. Girling what would happen should the US Administration approve Keystone XL. His direct answer was that he would have to shelve Energy East because there is simply not enough product from Alberta to make both pipelines profitable. Economics, and the owners of the pipeline, not the federal government, ended Energy East.
Minister Sohi has written recently on the differential issue. Kent and I agree with his article and support him in the daily work that he is doing to see TMX expanded in the right way. This expansion will provide the country with three pipeline options. The Enbridge Line 3 will come online in 2019. Keystone XL should be ready in 2020 and TMX could be ready shortly thereafter. These three projects will increase transport capacity by 1.7 million barrels taking us to almost 6 million barrels daily flowing from Alberta to multiple international markets. This is important for you and for the country. It will mean an end to the deep differential in the price of Alberta energy projects, helping us to capture up to $80 M each day that we currently lose to the United States.
It has taken us this long in our mandate to be able to get to the point where we can clean up the regulatory and consultative mess left to us by the Harper Conservatives. The 2012 CEAA process gutted environmental protections and neglected the needs of indigenous peoples. As such, it failed to see any single project approved. The deliberate policy of PM Harper to not meet with provincial Premiers and his disastrous decision to travel to the US to tell President Obama that Keystone XL was a no-brainer set back Canada’s energy infrastructure by years. His government’s refusal to meet with or accommodate the needs of indigenous peoples and their treatment of environmental advocates as terrorists further poisoned the atmosphere, ensuring that no energy infrastructure project to the coast could be built. Six years of a failed system led to endless opposition. We are now rebuilding trust and forging new relationships to get our energy products to new markets.
We hear the concerns and questions about Bill C-69. We know that in uncertain times, people don’t want more change. We believe that shelving C-69 or gutting the legislation would leave us exactly where we are now – with a process that ignores the legitimate concerns of real people that then puts forward projects that fail to stand up to court scrutiny. Nobody wants a process to continue that fails to get good projects built. It is why we spent two years meeting with and working with industry leaders, environmentalists and indigenous peoples. The result is a revised review process that is faster, front-loaded, and predictable. Mining and forestry companies have already used this approach successfully. Who remembers the days of activists chaining themselves to trees to stop regular forest harvests? I do. C-69 uses the same process of up-front consultation to avoid desperate tactics late in the development of a project. As with any legislation, we remain open to thoughtful and helpful amendments, which the Senate will now be able to review at committee.
The assertion that some conspiracy exists to shut down the energy sector in Canada is simply ridiculous and patently false. What is true is that we are living through a continental reorganization of energy production and the reaping of 70 years of short-sighted Alberta energy policy by successive conservative governments to sell our product to one customer. Since the discovery of shale gas in 2008 that best and only customer, the US, has needed our oil far less than it used to. All of this is happening against the backdrop of low world oil prices due to due to OPEC overproduction.
It is also taking place during a time of demonstrable climate change. Anyone remember the hazy smoky Edmonton summer of 2018, the devastating fires in BC and California, or the horrendous floods in Calgary and Fort McMurray? The science is verifiable and the consequences very real in terms of lost lives and destruction of homes and property.
We live in a country that enjoys proud democratic traditions that is also governed by the rule of law. This means that the independent judiciary has the constitutional right and duty to rule on the actions of legislatures and parliaments. When governments overreach and fail to protect the environment or fail to consult properly with communities or with indigenous peoples, courts rightly rule them out of order and either invalidate projects or task governments with doing better. We are taking responsibility for the federal court decision on TMX. We have engaged retired Supreme Court Justice the Hon Frank Iacobucci to oversee the consultations with Indigenous Peoples. We have also mandated the National Energy Board to review the impact of an expanded TMX on marine tanker traffic. This report will be concluded in February.
While we know that better is always possible, it must be said, that despite all of the vitriol from conservative elites and past Reform Party grandees, it would take a colossal and intentional effort to do worse than the Conservatives on matters related to energy policy. The Conservatives are experts at rhetoric and complete failures when it comes to results. I, for one, will not play games with an industry that makes up 20 percent of our national GDP. Neither will my colleagues.
I ran for office to achieve results, not to be mired and weighed down by process. That said, in a country as vast and diverse as Canada, a certain amount of process is needed to produce results that can stand the test of time. My colleagues and I are working hard every day to deliver just such results for Alberta and for Canada.