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Investments in Energy Face Another Test

Over the past few years, much of the attention of those following the politics involved in Canadian energy has been focused on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. This was fueled by headline news that originated from the project, such as when Kinder Morgan decided to sell the pipeline to the government for $4.5 billion. For many in the energy sector in Canada, the pipeline also symbolizes more than one project. To them, it’s a test of the feasibility of multinational corporations investing in Canadian energy. Should those companies continue to look at Canada as somewhere to invest billions of dollars, or are other countries more attractive now due to their regulatory regime?

This leads us into the Teck Resources Limited Frontier Oil Sands Mine, which has begun to pick up media attention after having gone through years of regulatory approvals. The project is planned for 110 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and would operate for 40 years. It would employ 7,000 workers during the construction phase and 2,500 during its operation. Over its lifespan, it would contribute $70 billion in tax revenue to federal, provincial and municipal governments. If approved, it would be one of Canada’s largest-ever energy projects.

Due to these impressive statistics, AED President Brian McGuire wrote to the prime minister and key ministers, detailing the industry’s support: “As mentioned, our members are at the forefront of supporting all natural resource industries, especially mining and energy. The heavy equipment we sell, rent, service and manufacture is essential to successfully building and operating a project. Should the Teck Frontier Oil Sands Mine be approved, it would be significant to the industry.”

Now that the project has gained media attention, it has become a target of added scrutiny by environmentalists and some indigenous groups. Although the project has signed profit-sharing agreements with 14 indigenous groups, there are others that contest it. Also, estimates are that it would produce 4.1 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, which many say goes against the federal government’s climate targets. In response to recent criticism, Teck Resources has pledged to cut its carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The project now sits in the hands of the federal Cabinet, which must make a final decision on its fate by the end of February. Just like the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, however, this project symbolizes more than just one project. This is especially true at a time when western alienation continues to grow and hundreds of energy workers continue to be unemployed. While Canada begins its transition toward a clean energy future, the question regarding the transition’s timeline continues to be unanswered. The decision by the prime minister and his Cabinet at the end of February may get us closer to an answer.   

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