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Thank you very much Senator, and Honourable Senators, welcome to Alberta. Except for Senator Simons, thank you for welcoming us to Edmonton. And I really appreciate the opportunity.
Before I begin, I’d like to introduce, as you mentioned I’m accompanied by Alberta’s Minister of Energy Minister Sonya Savage, who has a deep background in energy issues.
And behind me I’ve invited special guests to join me, including Bob Blakely, who is outgoing president of Building Trades, one of the largest consortiums of trade unions in the country. As well as Calvin Helin, the lead proponent of the Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings and the Eagle Spirit initiative in Northern British Columbia, Dennis Perrin of CLAC, another major union -- especially here in Alberta -- that has thousands of employees in the energy sector.
I’m expecting to be joined by my fellow Notre Dame Hound, Stephen Buffalo of the Indian Resource Council, another great advocate of our vital energy industry.
So I’m delighted that you’ve chosen to be with us here in Alberta.
Albertans have elected a government that will protect their interests and fight for them when things get tough. And these are tough times. I want to thank you Senator Tkachuk for accepting my request formally to articulate our government’s position that Bill C-48 presents a grave threat to Alberta’s and Canada’s economic interests.
Not only do we disagree with Bill C-48 in its current form, we do not agree with the bill, period. We do not believe that it can be remediated. We believe it must be scrapped.
Simply put, this legislation is an attack against Alberta and this province’s vital economic interests. It affects no none else. It is not only discriminatory, we believe it is unconstitutional.
The federal government has not considered any research or science in its assessment and implications of a tanker moratorium.
As many analysts have noted, a double standard is at the heart of the bill before you. Bill C-48 does not affect shipments of liquefied natural gas exported out of British Columbia. If this legislation is about tanker traffic, then tell us, why would it not apply to B.C. natural gas?
Also, by restricting oil exports from strategic deep-water ports, Canada has limited access to Asian markets that will lead to increased costs and longer shipping times. This creates a major problem for Alberta and Canadian suppliers in shipping our energy to the rest of the world.
I have to admit, I’m confused by this legislation. If it is so important, why aren’t we looking at other Canadian coastlines? According to Transport Canada, 85 per cent of the 20 thousand oil tanker movements off Canadian coasts occur on the Atlantic coast.
We all know what type of oil currently travels via the Atlantic coast: OPEC oil, Saudi oil. In fact a report last week indicated that Canadian imports of oil from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have increased by 66 per cent in the last four years.
Those are oil imports which have Canadian consumers indirectly subsidizing a dictatorial regime with one of the worst human rights records in the world, which too often treats women like property rather than people…
…and which has exported extremism around the world; as well as imports from Venezuela and other countries that have radically lower environmental, human rights and labour standards than we do in Canada.
Additionally, oil tankers regularly travel through the Bay of Fundy to Irving refineries in Saint John. And I’m sure, like you, senators, I have seen that myself firsthand.
The Bay of Fundy is of course an environmentally and culturally sensitive area, so why wouldn’t this legislation apply to the Bay of Fundy? Why does it only apply to an area of our west coast that would only be exporting Alberta energy?
Canada has an excellent record of tanker safety. The last time we had a significant oil tanker spill was in 1979, not on the west coast but on the east coast near Nova Scotia.
Of course, since that time 40 years ago, there have been radical improvements in tanker safety and marine safety technology, none of which is given any consideration in Bill C-48.
This bill ignores these critical facts. The fact that we don’t have many oil spills and that technology has improved greatly apparently has no interest to the minister who drafted this legislation.
If the goal of this bill is marine and coastal safety, I don’t believe the ban will achieve the desired outcome. This is a “cut off your nose to spite your face” approach.
Loaded oil tankers will continue to travel the British Columbia coast between Alaska and Washington. Again, this ban only impacts products coming from this province, from Alberta.
We know that foreign vessels will still have the right of innocent passage through coastal waters under international law and the right to load and unload crude oil just north of the proposed banned area in Alaska.
We also know that Mr. Helin’s consortium, the Eagle Spirit, have actually lined up some interest from prospective investors to pursue an Alaska inlet route, which would ultimately pass through Canadian waters but would circumvent the restrictions implied by Bill C-48. So what’s the point?
If these tankers pose risks as the federal government maintains, then I ask you this: why would Canada take on the risks of these foreign tankers without receiving any economic benefit from potential exports off of B.C.’s north coast?
It is hypocritical and contradicts the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan, which aims to safeguard the coast while growing the economy. Prohibiting shipments from strategic ports that enable access to new markets beyond the United States seriously harms Canadian jobs and Alberta’s economy in particular.
It harms Alberta’s economy, because it holds us hostage against our own economic prosperity. I can say this; Alberta will not stand for this and I will not as Premier stand for this.
Should this bill pass in its current form, we will launch a constitutional challenge of Bill C-48. We will rightfully fight and stand up for this province. We will fight for the right to export our valuable exports to international markets and get our proper value for them, which is in the manifest interest of all Canadians from coast to coast.
So we will not allow the political ideology at the heart of this bill to interfere with jobs, our way of life, our prosperity.
I want to discuss certain things that are of greater concern to us in this bill.
First, prohibitive substances. Canada is stacking the deck against Alberta once again.
There is no rhyme nor reason to the lists of prohibited substances. One could argue that the federal government does not even rely on its own research conducted by Natural Resources Canada.
Our bitumen is not more dangerous than other products that currently flow through the port of Vancouver. The fact that condensates such as propane are under this ban is frankly ridiculous.
British Columbia can ship liquefied natural gas but Alberta cannot ship propane? Isn’t it premature to be adding specific prohibited classes of oil, products or materials directly in the legislation?
This is again a constitutional attack on Alberta and its energy industry. And Alberta will not stand for it. Passing this legislation will be detrimental to investment here where there is already a crisis of investor confidence, but also in Canada across sectors beyond just oil and gas.
The approach of this bill would actually discourage, in our judgment, technological advancements in the energy industry to increase safety in crude shipping. As a united country, we have an opportunity to be a global supplier of choice with the highest environmental standards and responsible development and reclamation practices.
And let me pause on this to say, let’s all be honest. C-48 is clearly the direct result of the foreign-funded campaign of special interest groups to land lock Canadian energy, which took formal shape at the meeting hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers fund offices for the tar sands campaign in 2008…
…a campaign which has received tens of million of dollars of funding from foreign foundations, with the explicit and prejudicial goal of land locking Canadian energy.
Since the launch of that campaign, the United States has doubled its oil production and has now become a net exporter of oil. Global demand and consumption of oil has increased by 10 per cent, from 90 to 100 million barrels per day. The International Energy Association projects another 10 per cent increase in global demand in the next 25 years.
Either Canada will play a role in satisfying that demand with the energy produced here at the highest environmental, human rights and labour standards on earth, or we will surrender those growing global energy markets to some of the world’s worst regimes.
So why have these organizations inspired the federal government to bring this legislation forward?
Because they identified Canada as the weakling, as the pushover, as the kid in the schoolyard easiest to bully. They knew full well that they could not reduce U.S. increases in U.S. oil production, Venezuelan, Saudi, Qatari, Iranian or Russian energy production or shipments.
And so we now find ourselves in the ironic situation of being amongst the major energy producers, the only liberal democracy with the highest standards, and yet we are surrendering future energy markets and hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars of value to regimes that export extremism, conflict and violence around the world.
That is the real practical effect of bills like this, together with the broader context of Bill C-69, the killing of Northern Gateway and the killing of Energy East.
So the federal government has admitted that it has not fully researched the area as defined within the legislation to understand what makes B.C.’s north coast particularly vulnerable to shipping and other marine activities.
This is significant. We can’t just say “let’s just cover the whole area”. The government needs to do it right.
Further research needs to be done before an area-based ban can be in place.
We cannot say that the government officials have had conversations with provincial officials. At the very least we need extensive meaningful consultation, and not jut between governments, but also with First Nations people like those represented by Mr. Helin and many First Nations across western Canada and northern British Columbia who want the opportunity to be partners in responsible resource development to move their people from poverty to prosperity.
I can inform the committee that the Government of Alberta just sworn in today will create a litigation fund to support First Nation groups like Eagle Spirit to assert their right to be consulted by the federal crown, before it shuts down economic opportunities, to help First Nations defend their economic rights.
And we will create a crown corporation called the Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation backstopped by an initial investment of a billion dollars to facilitate First Nations’ financial participation and co-ownership in major resource projects, including those prospectively off the north B.C. coast.
We cannot shut the borders on our economic prosperity. Passing this bill means fewer investment dollars, not just for Alberta but for Canada.
We will see company after company continue to move capital and good-paying jobs out of this country. We’ve seen the flight of billions of dollars in Alberta to fuel an unprecedented energy boom in the United States, in Texas, North Dakota and Colorado.
I will just close, Mr. Chair, by saying: if this bill passes in anything like its current form it will be yet another devastating blow to investor confidence in an industry that has been a critical engine of Canadian prosperity and fiscal federalism.
So on behalf of the Government of Alberta I plead with this committee not to report this bill back to the Senate or to indicate that it will require a fundamental rewrite. Frankly, we don’t think this bill is salvageable, the people and the government of Alberta.
I remind the committee that you heard from Premier Notley, I think by teleconference three weeks ago, who initially in November of 2016 did not understand the full negative implications of the moratorium now being enshrined in legislation, but who clearly has come to learn that this bill would have a devastating impact on Alberta and Canadian prosperity.
This is not a partisan question in Alberta. There is a massive consensus from left to right, from people of all sectors, that this bill must be defeated and, if it is not, that the Government of Alberta will challenge it as being unconstitutional.
I’m happy to cede to any questions.