Wotherspoon wants transparent royalty reviews, wouldn’t build any more carbon capture

Second in a series of two articles on the candidates for the NDP leadership

Regina – Trent Wotherspoon, MLA for Regina Rosemount since 2007, had taken a run at the leadership of the New Democratic Party in 2012. He lost then, but is taking another run at it now, after a stint as interim leader and leader of the opposition since the resignation of previous leader, Cam Broten. He stepped down from that position when he announced his intentions to run for the permanent position.   

The prize in the two-candidate leadership race is not just the leadership of the party, but the chance to upset the Saskatchewan Party in the 2020 provincial election and lead the province as premier.

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Wotherspoon is a teacher by trade.

He spoke to Pipeline Newsvia phone on Dec. 1, from Moose Jaw, regarding his energy policy.

“I would have a comprehensive energy policy that would recognize the strengths of this province. Certainly, I value our oil and gas sector, our traditional energy sector, and would look to stability and support for that important industry to our province. That includes support for well-managed pipelines that can get our product to tidewater, to market, to reduce the differential on a barrel of oil and ensure the best returns to the people of the province.,” Wotherspoon said.

“A comprehensive energy policy would also invest and support the creation of renewable power across the province, supporting distributed generation of that power, creating jobs and creating investment right across the province. Working very closely with homeowners and farms and businesses and First Nations and municipalities in establishing opportunities for them to put power into the grid,” Wotherspoon said.

Asked about royalties, Wotherspoon said, “The people of Saskatchewan are the owners of the resource. The energy sector is an important sector in Saskatchewan. The jobs are incredibly important. My aim, on this front, would be to remain transparent and ensure stability in the sector. I think that’s particularly important with challenged commodity prices. That being said, as the owners of the resource, Saskatchewan people deserve a government that will actively and transparently review the royalty structures to ensure that we have a fair shake, and a fair return, to the people of the province.

“A royalty review is absolutely something the government should be active with, and do so in a fair way, and a transparent way, with an aim to ensure a fair return to the owners of the resource, the people of Saskatchewan, in times of windfall for the industry,” Wotherspoon said.

He thinks governments should be regular in their review of royalties, in part because industries and technologies change.

Would Wotherspoon go on trade missions, like Premier Brad Wall has, in support of the energy sector? As premier, he said he would stand up for the best interests of Saskatchewan and represent our energy sector both within Canada and internationally. “We need to aim to be constructive and effective in our efforts of representing this important industry to the province,” he said.

On export pipelines, he said, “The case I made for Energy East was it does deal directly with southeast Saskatchewan and its energy product, and create new and important markets for Saskatchewan energy products. It’s an important project, and I’ve long made that case, publicly, in the assembly. It’s an important project, from my view, not just to Saskatchewan, but to Canada.

Wotherspoon thinks it should be revived. “It’s something I would like to see accomplished. I would want to work in a constructive way to make the case for Energy East.”

On Keystone XL, he said he’s on the record of also supporting this pipeline, and working to close the differential on the price we receive for oil is important for all. Wotherspoon doesn’t support Northern Gateway, but has been a strong advocate for the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion.

“Pipelines are very important to our province. They’re important to our energy sector. It’s important that we manage those pipelines with as much integrity as we can. Well-managed pipelines are critical. Strong, robust environmental assessments around those projects are very important, as well as measures to make sure that, if a company is dealing with a breach of a pipeline, that matters are contained and land and waters are protected. Well-managed pipelines are important to this province,” he said.

Wotherspoon thinks Saskatchewan needs and independent regulator for Saskatchewan-regulated pipelines, and he feels it’s not right for the Ministry of Economy doing the checks and balances.

Pipelines are also much safer than putting oil on rail, he added.

With respect to the downturn, he said, “I’ve been aware of the hurt throughout the patch and the impact on families and workers. I’ve made that case for the past number of years in the legislature, as well as dealing with a lot of workers and families that have been impacted.

“It’s part of what frustrates and upsets me with the actions of this current government that have really sold out the interests of Saskatchewan workers and businesses when building public infrastructure,” he said. Wotherspoon said the province actively shut out Saskatchewan companies on procurement at a time when we needed to be creating Saskatchewan jobs. He also said it should have been a good time to advance an aggressive energy efficiency retrofit program for homes, businesses, and industries. It would have put people to work and brought down emissions.

On carbon capture and storage, he said, “Clearly, the carbon capture plant the government has advanced is very costly power, in many ways, the most costly power we can put into the grid. We need to look to alternatives that will create jobs and the safe, affordable power that the people of the province deserve, and obviously, power that reduces emissions. The Boundary Dam 3 project has been very costly. My view would be we need to take a more affordable, sustainable route, with the public dollars that are being utilize around a mix of renewable power, and certainly a role for natural gas in that.”

The numbers are far to costly, at $1.5 or $1.6 billion, he said. “Certainly, I wouldn’t be expanding that technology onto other plants.”

“This is why it’s very important for a government to be working actively to layout a path, on the power generation side, with the jobs as well, to meet the needs of workers in the region and to meet the power demands of the province,” Wotherspoon said.

Since the money is already sunk into BD3, it’s important to recognize, but clearly additional projects shouldn’t proceed.

On carbon tax, he said, “It’s clear we need a Saskatchewan solution. The Sask Party’s approach of investing $1.5, $1.6 billion into 100 megawatts of power is far to costly. That’s a carbon tax Saskatchewan people simply can’t afford. We shouldn’t left the federal government impost its structure on us. We need to build a Saskatchewan climate change plan that works for us, that protects our trade-exposed industries and consumers, all while acting on climate change, reducing our emissions.

“There are some important opportunities for us to advance here. We should be acting aggressively around renewable power and distributed generation. That creates jobs and investment across the province. We should be advancing a very robust energy efficiency retrofit program that reduces emissions and creates jobs and investment as we retrofit homes and businesses in industry throughout the province.

“Of course, we need to work with agricultural producers who are exceptional stewards of the land, who sequester carbon through their practice. We need to make sure they are protected, but also recognize the role of wetlands and grasslands in a climate change plan,” Wotherspoon said. 

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