Regina – Protests, rallies and convoys have popped up in almost every significant oilpatch community since the middle of December 2018, and even more are being planned, including mid-February convoys to Ottawa. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Regina on Jan. 11, Pipeline News asked him about this upswell of protest against his government’s energy policies. The night before, while he spoke at a townhall at the University of Regina, a convoy of roughly 100 units was honking outside, and about a dozen protesters in yellow vests were on the sidewalk while those going to the townhall waited to enter.
Here’s the full exchange:
Pipeline News: Almost every oilpatch community in the past month has had some sort of rally, or convoy pass through it, protesting your government’s energy policies. Specifically, Energy East was killed, that there’s a tanker ban, conventional coal is also part of that. In Estevan, it took less than 48 hours to organize a convoy 15 kilometres long with 427 units. How do you respond to that?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: First of all, I understand the concerns folks in the energy industry, in the prairies, Alberta, Saskatchewan and elsewhere, have about the softening price of oil, and the differential between the price we get in Canada, and the price in the United States.
That is primarily, I mean, there’s lots of factors that go into it, from refinery shutdowns, to global contexts, but the primary reason is we are prisoners of the United States market for our oil resources, from the oilsands. We do not have access to markets, other than the United States. That’s why, moving forward in the right way, on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, is a priority for this government. It’s why, when the proponent was wanting to drop the project, the federal government stepped in, so that we could ensure the project continues to move forward in the right way. That is the focus we had, because we know that getting our resources to new markets has been a long, long-standing request and need of the oil industry and the oilsands.
Unfortunately, the previous government had an approach that said if you marginalize, further, indigenous peoples and if you ignore the science, you’ll be able to get things done quicker.
That’s not way to get resources built. Anyone that’s promising that you can snip, snap your fingers and build a pipeline, doesn’t understand that’s not the way we do things anymore in Canada, nor should we.
A hundred years ago, and more, when we were laying down railroads across this country, nobody checked with Indigenous people to see whether we could have permission or partnership to do it. We have now changed, as a country. We know we need to move forward, in thoughtful ways, in partnership, so that the benefits are shared, so that the risks are minimizes, so that ordinary people can know that we’re being thoughtful about the environmental and long-term consequences of the choices we’re making.
That is the approach we’re taking, not only because we think it is the right way to get energy projects built, and to new markets. We think it’s the only way, to get energy projects to new markets.
So when the Federal Court of Appeal decision came down, people were disappointed in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But I was disappointed as well, because we had done more on consultations, and more on consultations and more on environmental science than the previous government had, and we thought we had got it right. But the Federal Court of Appeal said no, we need to do a little bit more. But they gave us a blueprint in order to do that and get it done in the right way. We are following that blueprint, because we know how important it is, to get our resources to new markets, and that’s why we’re continuing to focus on doing it the right way.