Reiter says feds missed an opportunity on energy

July 20, 2022, 9:25 am

Saskatchewan Energy and Mines Minister Jim Reiter

Saskatchewan Energy and Mines Minister Jim Reiter says the federal government missed an opportunity to address energy shortages at the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference recently.

“Although there were productive discussions in some areas, unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for the federal government to have important conversations addressing global energy shortages with the jurisdictions who are ultimately responsible for overseeing oil and gas production and regulations,” Reiter said. “Rather than imposing unachievable, baseless targets and caps on industry, the Trudeau government needs to work with them to build infrastructure and get our sustainable products to market.”

Reiter said Canada and Saskatchewan already have some of the cleanest energy products in the world. Saskatchewan is a global leader in carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology. Oil and gas companies continue to spend more on environmental protection than any other industry in the country.

He pointed out that in 2021, Saskatchewan industry reduced greenhouse gas emissions from vented and flared gas at upstream oil facilities by 60 per cent from 2015 levels. As well, Saskatchewan potash production emits 50 per cent fewer emissions than in competing jurisdictions and uranium from northern Saskatchewan will play a vital role in clean nuclear energy technologies.

He said current federal policies hurt jobs, limit production, pass costs onto consumers, and keep Canada dependent on energy products from countries with poor environmental and human rights standards. A recent Parliamentary Budget Officer report shows that 60 per cent of households will end up financially worse off when looking at the full cost impact of the carbon tax. Prohibiting generation from fossil fuels under the clean electricity standard will put Saskatchewan’s reliable natural gas power sources at risk, with no proven alternatives. The proposed clean fuel standard will increase the price of gasoline and diesel, costing the average Canadian household $132 to $301 a year by 2030.

He said the provincial government is committed to expanding the province’s export infrastructure. Lack of pipeline capacity in Western Canada costs Saskatchewan’s producers billions each year and diminishes industry’s ability to get essential products to market. Saskatchewan supports the Alberta Court of Appeal’s ruling that the federal Impact Assessment Act for approving these resource projects is unconstitutional.

He said Saskatchewan is taking a practical approach to reducing emissions that supports a robust economy and growth in the traditional energy sector and the over 30,000 jobs it represents. He said the solution to North American and global energy egress and security issues could be Canadian natural resource products and infrastructure, if federal policies supported this goal.
The World-Spectator interviewed Reiter following the conference. Following is the interview.

So how did the Energy and Mines Ministers conference go?
I would say that it was kind of disappointing. There were some good discussions. That was my first meeting as minister—I just got appointed about a month ago, so I had a chance to meet some colleagues and we had discussions in some areas, but I think the biggest disappointment for me was that I feel a reluctance on the part of the federal government to discuss oil.
We’ve got an affordability question for folks in this country and in Saskatchewan, and we have inflationary pressures.
We don’t seem to be doing anything on the energy front to help with that.

What kind of opportunities do you see right now for the Canadian energy industry?
When you look at the tragedy in Ukraine and the whole geopolitical issue around that, I mean, obviously the world needs a safe, reliable supply of energy and Canada should be very well positioned to do that. We’re having trouble, though. Because of the federal policies, we’re having trouble getting projects done.

I hear from producers saying that they’re having difficulties getting capital for projects—you’ve got bill C-69, the Environmental Impact Assessment issue going on in Alberta, that sends a chill through the industry.

In my view the federal government should be doing everything it can to encourage the development of Canadian oil and Canadian energies, clean by international standards especially. We’re not using the opportunity that has presented itself to us.

What are some of the federal policies that you’d like to see change to grow our exports of Canadian energy products?
Well for starters, Bill C-69. Now in my understanding all Canadian provinces have agreed to act as interveners to support Alberta on that. I think that should send a message to the federal government, that they’re on the wrong side of that issue.

That would certainly send a good message to the industry. We have to get some pipelines built in this country. Anything that could help in that area would be a welcome change. There are more specific things they could do for enhanced oil recovery. It’s a clean way to produce more oil and they could expand the tax credit to that but they seem incredibly reluctant to do it. So there’s a number of things that they could do that help production.

There’s been a discussion of two new liquid natural gas plants on the East Coast and I believe the German government is lobbying pretty hard to get the federal government here to allow those to move forward. Do you think with the geopolitical situation there is some movement in the federal government’s thinking on this?
I didn’t see anything at this conference for me to believe that the government is changing its thinking, but I hope that’s the case. Not that long ago they killed the Saguenay LNG plant, so I think that probably speaks volumes, but I certainly hope that there’s a reversal on their side.

The energy exports continue to rise despite what the federal government has done. I see in the May figures just out from Stats Canada this week, energy accounts for 29.8 per cent of our exports now and that’s why in May our trade surplus was higher than it has been for about 15 years. Do you think that the average Canadian realizes how important those energy exports are to the Canadian economy?
I don’t think they do. I think that’s a really good point. I think the average Canadian doesn’t realize that, but I think a lot of Canadians, especially in Eastern Canada, don’t understand that we should and could be energy sufficient in this country.

We’re doing exports already and yet Eastern Canada is importing oil and gas. They’re importing oil from Saudi Arabia. I don’t believe that the majority of people have realized that.

I think that if they did, they’d probably think differently about what we should be doing for policies in this country.

What can the provincial government do to ensure that our energy products can get to international markets?
I think we just have to keep impressing on the federal government over and over again how important this is so that they have realistic policies in place, and frankly it’s either to the point where we need to change the federal government’s policies or we need to change the federal government—something has to change.

Are you optimistic at all that with the current situation and with Europe calling on Canada to replace Russia as a supplier, the federal government is going to have a change of heart on energy?
Well I’m going to be doing the best I can next week with my federal counterpart. I’m going to impress on him again. I know our Premier has been advocating strongly and other colleagues are. We are going to continue to foster that.

What’s the single most important thing that the provincial government could do to try to move this in the right direction?
I don’t think there’s any one thing on its own. I think its a combination of things like acting as intervenor in the Alberta situation, pressing our counterparts, and advocating for things like the credit for enhanced oil recovery. It’s a big industry and there are a lot of factors at play.

I think we need to continue to lobby as hard as we possibly can for a change in attitude on the federal side.