AV: Your mandate is to “steward responsible development” of energy. What does that mean to you?
The world is looking to jurisdictions that have credible plans to fight climate change—but we’ll also be a responsible oil producer. We’re building on the legacy of Premier Lougheed. His vision and his support for innovation and technology started things like SAGD. Unfortunately, subsequent conservative governments lost that vision. We’re picking it up. Companies are looking to become more carbon competitive and we’re looking to help them. We know there are business risks with climate change. We have that vision as well.
AV: Are you sick of talking about pipelines?
Never, no. It matters not just to Alberta but to Canada that we get this right.
AV: OK, then. Why do you believe the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is in the public interest?
We need pipeline access to help pay for the public services we rely on—teachers in classrooms, nurses in hospitals. And with truck and rail transport, not only is it costlier to industry but it’s just not as safe. You only have to look to Calgary, to companies like Hifi. They’re putting in the latest fibre optic sensors for pipeline safety. A pipeline takes vehicles off the road, too, so it’s climate friendly. And it puts people to work. There are just lots of reasons—and it’s not just about Alberta getting a better return, it’s about Canada getting a better return.
AV: What is opponents’ most legitimate objection to the project?
We understand that further Indigenous consultations must be done. We absolutely support that. But at the same time we need to get off this merry-go-round and get the thing built. It’s been deemed an appropriate project because of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan. Pipelines can be safe. The feds invested a lot in marine safety and that’s important as well. We’re not saying that none of the concerns are important, but it’s also important to get top dollar for our oil and not turn our backs on the good jobs that this pipeline will provide.
AV: Investment in the oil sands has fallen for several years. What do you attribute this to? Are you concerned?
Well, the price of oil has gone down all over the world, not just here. When prices dropped, Conservatives left us and our economy in the ditch. Some projects in the oil sands were shelved, but some of them are coming back now with better prices, using new technology. As I mentioned earlier, Suncor’s Fort Hills project opened recently, Nexen Long Lake is continuing, Teck is in the hearing process right now for a project. It’s a big investment up front with a long-term payback and we’re seeing companies bring back projects or start new ones.
Interviewed by Evan Osenton. Evan is the editor of Alberta Views.
Find the full article in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of Alberta Views.