Varcoe: Wall believes progress made on pipelines, but worried for Energy East
CHRIS VARCOE, CALGARY HERALD
Published on: September 22, 2017 | Last Updated: September 22, 2017 8:03 AM MDT
After nearly 10 years at the helm, Premier Brad Wall announced Thursday that he is stepping down and retiring from politics at the Legislative Building in Regina.
BANFF — As Brad Wall heads into the home stretch serving as Saskatchewan’s 14th premier, he continues to defend Canada’s energy sector, fight Ottawa’s plan for a national carbon price and speak out about the need for new oil pipelines.
Wall, who announced in August he will retire from the job early next year, will speak Friday about energy issues at the Global Business Forum.
Wall spoke Thursday to the Herald about his concerns that pipeline projects such as Energy East are in jeopardy, that the energy debate in the country has become more polarized, and why he feels the need to defend the sector.
Q: Has Canada made any progress on the pipeline front in the past year?
Wall: Some. I do think we’ve made some progress, to be sure. There will be a lot of people that will say, ‘Hey we’ve priced carbon provincially in some places and nationally and so this has finally got the social licence for whatever progress has been made.’
And I categorically disagree with that. For example, next door in British Columbia, we have (the) Trans Mountain (pipeline expansion) and I think there is still doubt that hangs over it because a provincial government has a number of different ways to kind of throw sand in the gears, if they want. So I worry a little bit about that.
Energy East is not in a good spot right now. And Keystone has gone ahead, but that doesn’t have anything to do with policies in our own country … So I’m still worried about this issue of moving energy across the country to tidewater.
Q: Do you believe the dialogue in the last 12 months has become any less polarized?
A: I don’t believe that it has become less polarized … The fact that we now have, in the last 18 months, added an overlay onto the already existing rigorous NEB process for pipelines approval — the overlay and the additional measure being upstream and downstream greenhouse gases — this is a real concern.
We don’t do that to any other industry that needs to move its product across the country. We don’t do that to the car business. And cars are very much a part of the whole greenhouse gas story, not just their usage by Canadian drivers, but how you make (them), the carbon footprint of making them in the first place. And I wouldn’t want to see that.
It might be more so (polarized) because of the policies of the (federal) government …
Q: In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen TransCanada decide to suspend the regulatory process on Energy East while they determine their next steps. Are you worried Energy East may not be built given what has happened?
A: Yes, I am … The suspension is one (reason). The political timetables across the country … All of those things complicate the matter and I also think the new additions to the regulatory — to the measures that would need regulatory approval — don’t help either, in terms of my optimism for Energy East.
Q: Do you think Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project is going to get built?
A: Any pipeline that has already been approved, I think the chances of it are much greater. And credit the federal government for getting to that point. I maybe reject the rationale that if we only put a price on carbon, that’s why this has happened.
Otherwise, if that were to happen, you’d have more grassroots support in places like British Columbia who would see, ‘Well they priced carbon, so we should all get behind these federal approvals.’
Notwithstanding that, I think there’s greater reason for optimism about those projects certainly than Energy East right now.
Q: You’ve discounted the notion that putting a price on carbon (in Alberta) did help get the Kinder Morgan project approved. Why?
A: Honestly, I think it’s an artificial argument. We’re one country; it’s not like we’re trying to sell to another country who are demanding that we do this, we’re just trying to move it across the country.
And what materially has changed with a brand new tax in Alberta in terms of the environmental rigours we all want to apply to the sector? The environmental sustainability of the different measures within the energy (sector), nothing’s changed ….
I just think this is more about politics for the federal government who desperately want to show that carbon tax, even before it’s implemented, is doing good things …
Q: You’ve been adamant that you think your province can stop national carbon price from coming in and affecting Saskatchewan. What gives you that confidence that you have the legal ability to determine this?
A: We have a level of optimism around (it) — and I’m not going to get into the specifics of why because that will be our case that we make to the courts. But we do have level of optimism that we’ll be able to ensure that the federal government cannot impose a carbon tax.
I think you’ll see us move in the fall with some more specifics around our white paper when we talked about our plan for emissions reduction and hitting targets …
Q: You’re retiring soon. What happens to Brad Wall then?
A: I have no idea. You guys looking for anyone?