Wall says feds need rules in oil sector

Date of Article: March 1, 2014

Source: Star Phoenix

Author: Jason Fekete

Link: www.thestarphoenix.com/technology/Wall+says+feds+need+rules+sector/9567081/story.html

Two of Canada's leading conservative power players served notice Friday that Canada must do more to both strengthen and trumpet the country's environmental credentials if it expects to fight off international climate criticism and achieve its energy and economic goals.

Former federal environment minister Jim Prentice and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall were two of the star attractions Friday at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, and both delivered frank assessments of Canada's strengths and weaknesses on the energy and environmental files.

Wall said introducing overdue federal greenhouse gas regulations for the oil and gas sector would send a helpful signal that Canada is taking action on the environment, but he doesn't believe they're necessary to get the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline.

Prentice, CIBC vice-chairman and a former senior minister in the Harper government, said leading on the environment is an economic and political imperative for the federal government and Conservative party.

The federal government and Canada as a whole have at times been stuck on the wrong side of the environmental debate, Prentice said, and the country "can never again" be caught in a circumstance where it's following on the environment instead of leading. Global concern over climate change is increasing and Canada must be ready for it by taking aggressive environmental action, he said.

"Those who are paying attention can see that the next wave (of climate-change concern) is building again and the wave will come, and trust me, when it crests on Canada's shore, it will be at its highest point," Prentice told hundreds of grassroots conservatives, activists and political organizers gathered in Ottawa for the two-day conference. "And so Canada needs to be ready for it, and we as conservatives need to be ready for it." Moreover, Canada's position in the environmental debate "is amongst the most precarious" because of an economy that relies heavily on resource development, he said.

Prentice said Canada must adopt world-class greenhouse gas regulations for the oil and gas sector, but it can't be done unilaterally because it would damage Canadian competitiveness. Rather, it must be done in concert with the United States because the environment is a North American issue. At home, the country must also build economic partnerships with aboriginals that are based on sound environmental principles, he added.

"If you are in the energy business today, then you are in the environment business today," Prentice added. "If we are serious about being a global superpower in terms of energy, we are going to have to be a global power in terms of protecting and advancing the environmental discussion."

Earlier in the day, Wall said the Harper government's unwillingness to introduce greenhouse gas regulations for the energy sector through eight years in office is "admittedly a long period," but the Saskatchewan premier wants Ottawa to make sure it gets it right.

The populist premier said Canada must give the Obama administration more "environmental elbow room" to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and trumpet what Canada is already doing on the environment, including harmonizing greenhouse gas targets with the United States.

Canada has focused its Keystone sales pitch to the U.S. on the number of jobs the pipeline would create, Wall said, but "what we now need to do is pivot to the environment."