Jason Kenney says access to capital for oil and gas industry projects requires action on environmental issues from industry and government, a statement that marks a major change in tone for the Prime Minister from Alberta.
Kenney, who is the leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, made the remarks during a question-and-answer session at the UCP’s annual general meeting on Saturday.
The question revolved around a comment by Erin O’Toole who, shortly after winning the federal Conservative Party leadership race in August, said that a future Conservative government would commit to achieving Canada’s goals by in terms of greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
A party member asked Kenney if he was aware of this stance when he decided to back O’Toole in the leadership race and whether supporting the Paris deal could hurt the oil and gas industry from Alberta.
After saying former prime minister Stephen Harper supported the Paris deal because it was an “ambitious target,” Kenney said oil and gas companies tell him he is becoming more and more more difficult to access project finance from lenders without demonstrating a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. .
“I don’t think Erin [O’Toole] is wrong to say that we have to find a way forward for our industry where we don’t put our heads in the ground and pretend that the aspirations behind the Paris affair don’t greatly influence how capital is allocated and how market access decisions are made, ”Kenney said.
“Walking and chewing gum”
Kenney’s statements come as more banks and international funds, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, move away from investments in Alberta’s oil sands . French energy giant Total has written off $ 9.3 billion in tar sands assets.
In July, Kenney said he had asked Deutsch Bank to provide reasons for its decision to stop funding the tar sands and lambasted the “misinformed campaign by European financial institutions.”
But world events and Alberta’s continuing financial woes may have convinced Kenney to try something new.
Alberta is investing $ 1.5 billion in equity and $ 6 billion in loan guarantees in the Keystone XL pipeline, a project Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has vowed to kill if he wins the U.S. election next month.
In order to ensure Alberta’s investment pays off, Canada must show a potential new administration in the United States that the sector is making progress in reducing emissions, he said.
“We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to energy and environmental dynamics,” Kenney said. “One of the reasons I supported Erin [O’Toole] is that he understands that. “
O’Toole, who joined Kenney for part of the session, said Canadian resource companies are making progress in meeting climate goals.
“If we ever replace a barrel of Canadian energy from the global supply, who will replace it?” O’Toole said.
“In other countries, they don’t care about carbon intensity, social governance, indigenous engagement. So we should be proud of what we’re doing here.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the UCP to move its annual general meeting online this year, with events spread out this weekend and next.
The party held debates on politics and governance policies on Friday and Saturday.
The one-day session on October 24 will feature speeches by Kenney, O’Toole, CPC leadership contestant Leslyn Lewis, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, Energy Minister Sonya Savage and Minister of Employment, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer.
A controversial political resolution proposing a parallel private health care system was approved by 52.71% of UCP members who voted over the weekend.
The policy, proposed by the Calgary-Varsity Riding Association, suggests that physicians be allowed to practice in the private system if they so choose. Albertans who want to avoid long wait times could pay for a service out of pocket or with the help of private health insurance.
UCP members discussed 30 policy proposals during a four-hour session on Friday, which included discussions about an Alberta pension plan, a provincial police force and supervised consumption sites.
The results of the vote on the policy and governance resolutions were released on Saturday after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
Instead of voting on room resolutions, as in regular conventions, members voted online.