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Speech by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, on the Energy Council of Canada's awarding of the 2015 Canadian Energy Person of the Year. Calgary. November 25, 2015.
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Thanks very much. I thank the Energy Council of Canada for inviting me to be with you for my first domestic speech as Minister.
I can’t think of a better place to do it than in this great city. I’m reminded of when Jean Chrétien would come to Alberta. He would say that he would have 45 third cousins and 86 fourth cousins here, and that he felt really part of the family. I have one daughter who lives in Alberta, and she’s here tonight, and that trumps all the third cousins in the world.
I also want to recognize my colleague Randy Boissonnault, Member of Parliament from Edmonton Centre. Congratulations on your victory.
What an honour to celebrate the Energy Person of the Year, my friend Mike Cleland. He’s lived in the west. He’s lived in the east. He’s lived at the centre. He is part of the family of the Canada West Foundation. He’s worked in the public sector. He’s worked in the private sector. He’s been an academic. He’s taught at a university. He’s mentored internationally.
He was an assistant deputy minister in our department, Natural Resources Canada. In a way, he is Mr. Canadian Energy Strategy. I know he will be in a position to give us lots of great advice. He has led on a number of key issues such as market liberalization, sustainability and public confidence — all issues that shape the current landscape and that we will all tackle together.
A remarkable journey, Mike, marked by significant achievement and accomplishment. And tonight, a well-deserved honour. Congratulations.
On October 19, Canadians elected a new government, and they expect a new approach. Three weeks ago today, I was sworn into Cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources — a department that stands at the intersection of so many of the important issues facing our country — climate change, Indigenous engagement, major energy projects, innovation, economic growth. And even beyond these issues, natural resources speak to the relationship Canadians have with the land that provides them.
Today, natural resources continue to make up a big part of our GDP, about 20 percent, and Western Canada is an important part of that story. Whether it’s oil and gas, potash and minerals, forestry, mining or hydroelectric power, this region is resource-rich.
As the Prime Minister made clear in his letter outlining my mandate — and which was made public for the first time, by the way, in Canadian history — one of my core responsibilities is to help get our resources to market.
The instructions I have received from the Prime Minister are now in your e-mail box to which he will hold me accountable and you probably will too — and that’s the way it should be. To me, developing our resources is truly a nation-building exercise at a critical moment in Canada’s history.
As you know, what was once simply a matter of drilling a well or digging a hole is no longer as straightforward. The world is changing, with increasing value placed on sustainable practices and low-carbon alternatives. There may have been a time when people thought we had to choose between energy development or environmental stewardship. Today, we know that environmental responsibility is a necessary condition for energy development. The two simply must go together.
That’s why I’m so keen to work with my provincial and territorial partners to develop a Canadian Energy Strategy. There are many people in this room tonight who are part of the framework that was actually cracked open in a Winnipeg boardroom on a cold day in 2009 when the NGO sector came together and said is it possible for us outside of government to begin to sketch out what a Canadian strategy would look like.
We were able to do that, culminating in the Council of the Federations’ excellent piece of work last July. The Prime Minister has set the stage and the tone for this work by holding a historic meeting that included all of the Premiers of Canada and the entire federal Cabinet. If there are any historians in the room, please tell me when was the last time that in one room you had the Prime Minister, all of the Premiers and the entire federal Cabinet. I don’t think ever.
It is indicative of a new tone and a new collaboration for Canada that we can’t do any of this alone. We have to cross the divides across regions and across sectors. The prospect just the other day of an NDP Premier standing side by side with leaders of the sector and the NGO community — all at the same time — was truly an historic moment and shows the type of collaboration that is going to be essential as we move forward.
I congratulate the Minister for her role in that. Alberta has already demonstrated its strong leadership. I think that leadership from industry and environment groups all working together is the new world and our new reality. These aren’t just issues for Canada. Having just returned from meetings of the International Energy Agency in Paris, I can tell you that other countries are facing the same challenges and opportunities.
I can tell you that we were delighted at the reception that Canada received. Minister McKenna had been in Paris the week earlier preparing for the COP21 meetings, and we followed up. There was genuine delight that Canada was re-engaging the world in multilateral forums, because we know that our objectives are common, and we will play a major role as the world works through these issues together.
I’ve spoken directly with Secretary Moniz of the United States and Secretary Caldwell of Mexico to discuss ways to develop a North American clean energy strategy and environment agreement. At the heart of any effort to develop our energy resources is public confidence. If we’re going to build the infrastructure to move our energy to market or attract investment, we need to develop it. We have to have Canadians behind us.
It’s that simple and that fundamental. Canadians understand the importance of energy to our economy and to their own daily lives, but they need renewed confidence in the way we evaluate major projects like pipelines. That’s why it’s essential that we restore public confidence in the environmental assessment process. A key part of that will be modernizing the National Energy Board.
More robust oversight and thorough environmental assessment will also mean considering the impacts on climate change. I’ll be working closely with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change as we develop our government’s plans. We know that these changes will require a transition period for projects currently under review. I can tell you we’re working on that right now.
We will provide greater certainty on that front as soon as we can. but I can also say that no proponent with projects currently being assessed will have to go back to square one.
A central part of restoring public trust is fully engaging Indigenous Peoples, not just because there is a constitutional duty to consult — and there is — but because there is a unique opportunity to include: to share with Indigenous Peoples the economic benefits of resource development in Canada.
The fact is we need them, as partners. We need their wisdom, their knowledge and their support. And no project should proceed without the full engagement of Indigenous communities.
Let me speak for a few moments to those of you here in the oil patch. I don’t need to tell any of you how tough the last year has been — low prices, difficult decisions on capital spending and even tougher decisions about personnel.
Behind all the statistics — of rigs silenced or projects deferred — are people, people in communities not only here in Western Canada but right across the country who have borne the brunt and face uncertain futures. Here in Alberta alone, more than 63,000 jobs have been lost in the first eight months of this year. And this has rippled across the financial, retail and service industries.
I understand these struggles are real. Nobody has a magic wand, but I do see a brighter future ahead — a future built on innovation, adapting to changing times. A future with greener ways to extract and develop our fossil fuels. A future that makes greater use of renewable sources of energy. A future where energy efficiency plays a more important role. A future where we engage Canadians on how to generate the energy we need while preserving the planet we cherish.
That future is our responsibility. It’s been said that the worst of times can bring out the best in people. I think that’s true. And I believe we can work together to get through this tough period and position Canada to prosper by building the sustainable and resilient energy sector of the future.
Few people have thought more about these issues than Mike Cleland, a true visionary, someone who has always found a way to do what his heart says was right in a way his head says would work. Mike, this is your night. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of it. Let’s write the next chapter of this great country together. Thank you.
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