Regina – By Sept. 6, a week had passed since the Federal Court of Appeals quashed the permit to build the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, and the discourse on pipelines in this country had not settled down. Pipeline News spoke by phone to Premier Scott Moe about Saskatchewan’s take on the aftermath of the judgement.
Pipeline News:A week after the judgment came down, where are we? What, specifically, does the Province of Saskatchewan expect the federal government to do on Trans Mountain, and have they done anything yet?
Scott Moe: We’re going to need some action on it soon. There is a path forward. The federal government just needs to take it.
There hasn’t been a lot done, I don’t think, to date, by the federal government. They talked about essentially digesting the judgment that came down from the federal court.
I think, as we move forward, there’s a number of things the federal government should do, and they should act very quickly. They should understand this is the leadership that people expect the federal government to act on, on projects of national interest such as the Trans Mountain pipeline.
I would say they should file an appeal immediately with respect to the court decision. They could also start to take action on some of the outcomes of the court decision. For example: they could very quickly engage with consultation of some of those that have questions around this project of national interest. They could have committee hearings in Ottawa, for instance, and bring people there in very quick order, in a matter of weeks, to state their case. They can do this to ensure that the views of so many communities and so many groups that are supportive of this infrastructure. (They) could also have the opportunity to advocate for the economic opportunities for their communities. That would be two pieces – the appeal and the enhanced consultation in a short period of time.
Then they should very quickly recall Parliament, and they should pass legislation with respect to the environmental aspect of the court decision that reaffirms the federal government’s jurisdiction in this area. That the federal government does have this jurisdiction, we’ve always said, and they should pass legislation that they can reaffirm jurisdiction, so that construction can continue, can restart and ultimately finish so that as a nation we can ultimately realize the benefits of this project.
P.N.: Is there any place for the notwithstanding clause?
Moe: I don’t know if there’s a place for the notwithstanding clause on this particular project. This is within the federal jurisdiction. My feeling is they should pass legislation reaffirming that jurisdiction, and move on the project.
P.N.: You’ve talked numerous times about the impact on Saskatchewan. That impact is not going away. What is this costing us?
Moe: This is one piece to a larger conversation around the impact of a lack of access to our markets on the energy industry. Getting this project built would be a signal to the energy industry that, yes, we can get these transportation projects built in our nation. Yes, our sustainable product can be provided to markets all around the world.
Right now, the cost to Saskatchewan, by not having projects like TMX (Trans Mountain Expansion), Energy East, Northern Gateway, not having that ample access to world markets, is about $2.6 billion per year to the economy. Much of that is felt in the oil producing areas of our province, obviously. Directly to the government of Saskatchewan, it’s over $200 million in royalties and fees that we would have an opportunity to acquire, through that increased economic activity. So the cost to Saskatchewan, not only to those communities involved directly in the extraction of our sustainable energy product, is also a cost, I would say, to all Saskatchewan people in the fact that the government of Saskatchewan bears some of this burden.
P.N.: Wouldn’t $200 million a year almost get rid of what we have left for our deficit?
Moe: You are correct! And astute!
It’s a large amount. In addition to that $200 million that would directly come to the government of Saskatchewan, the spinoff effects of $2.6 billion in a number of communities across the province, to our service industries, our hotels, our grocery stores, our restaurants, in often more rural areas in the province. Never mind the service industry that services more directly the energy industry in the way of manufactured goods and servicing the parts and trucks.
The spinoffs of $2.6 billion in increased economic activity we could obtain, not by producing more, but by getting a fair value for the product we are already producing, would be tremendous.
That is what makes this pipeline, and other pipelines, so very important; not just to Saskatchewan, but to the rest of Canada as well. We contribute to equalization to the nation of Canada. This project is in the national interest. I’ve said that. Our ministers have said that. Most in the federal government have said that. It’s time, now, for our federal government to step up and lead and to ensure it is actually completed, to ensure that we send the appropriate signal to the markets that we can get our product to market, and that we’re willing to provide the many, many countries that are looking for this sustainable product, in this case, from Western Canada.
P.N.: Yesterday the CEO of Suncor said essentially they won’t be doing anymore oilsands expansions until they see actual physical progress on the ground on pipelines. What does this mean, from your perspective?
Moe: I think that’s an indicative statement of the industry as a whole. As we know, we don’t have active oilsands projects in Saskatchewan, at the moment, actively producing oilsands projects. But I think it’s a statement that holds true for much of the industry right now.
If we are going to continue to take a discount for our product, which is as sustainable as any product in the world; if we are going to continue to take a discount simply because we aren’t able to build nation-building infrastructure that is in our national interest, to not to just allow us to produce more, or to export more, but to allow us to obtain a fair world price for our product, the question bodes for the industry. How do we expand our investment in Western Canada?
I think it speaks to the importance of this project. I think it speaks to the reason the government of the previous premier in this province, and current premier, have been very vocal proponents, for any and all pipelines to get our product to market, to obtain a world price, a fair price, for Saskatchewan and Western Canadian energy products.
P.N.: Should Energy East and Northern Gateway be revived? And can this happen with Bill C-69
Moe: Yes, they both should be revived. The conversation around the construction of those projects should be revived, in particular, Energy East, where we could displace imported energy products from around the world, imported energy products that are produced with a much higher carbon footprint than Saskatchewan or Alberta products. Energy East is a project of importance to Saskatchewan because it would be our products actually in that particular pipeline.
And we should have that conversation about the safe and efficient transportation of our sustainable to other Canadians, as well as the opportunity to move them to other areas and displace dirtier products from around the world.
For certain, they should be revived.
We didn’t sign on to the communique at the last energy ministers meeting, with respect to Bill C-69. We feel C-69 is a problematic bill for not just the energy industry, but (a) number of industrial opportunities we currently have and continue to want to expand, here in Western Canada. It is a bill that essentially cantilevers the federal environmental assessment into areas of provincial jurisdiction. It should not move forward.
I understand it is in the Senate right now and we’ll have more to say on Bill C-69 as the regulations come out. It’s a problematic bill for not just the energy industry, but a number of different industries in Western Canada.
P.N.: A lot of people in the industry are highly disillusioned now. Can you offer any hope?
Moe: Yes! I think we should be hopeful. We should be hopeful and fierce advocates for the industry because of what the industry has done in the way of sustainability, in the way of ensuring our performance standards, and efficiencies and sustainability are among the best in the world here in Saskatchewan and in Western Canada. So I think there is an opportunity for us to be very optimistic for this industry in the medium term, at least, in Western Canada.
We have a great product, that is among the best, extracted and produced in the very best methods, from an environmental perspective, from a labour prospective, when you compare it to anywhere in the world. We should continue to advocate for that, and I do feel positive. I feel very bullish.
Over the medium term, we are going to come to resolution on ensuring that we’re able to solve some of our transportation issues, and solve some of our trade issues as well, to ensure we’re able to supply this product to customers that want it. Not just around the world, but also in Canada. We’ll continue to advocate on behalf of this industry and the Saskatchewan people employed in this industry.