(BC Premier Christy Clark, centre, says to some, the importance of Western Canada and resources has been entirely lost)
APTN National News
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says an out-of-control wildfire in Fort McMurray means Western Canada must work quickly to extract its natural resources and export them to overseas markets in order to help the economy.
Clark said the blaze that’s destroying the oil city appears to be affecting Canada’s projected economic growth and that the fix lies in utilizing the country’s western resources including oil, liquefied natural gas and uranium.
Clark made the comments during a press conference with other provincial leaders at the end of this week’s annual Western Premiers’ Conference in Vancouver on Friday.
She also criticized the federal government’s regulatory process on natural resource projects such as oil pipelines and liquefied natural gas plants for taking too long compared to B.C.’s faster approval process.
“I would argue that for some people, the importance of Western Canada and resources has been entirely lost,” she said. “Some people are trying to talk about keeping all of our natural resources locked underground forever, which would hobble Western Canada and absolutely would harm irreparably the Canadian economy.”
Clark said the premiers’ meetings focused in part on the importance of pushing through projects like oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas facilities and hydroelectric power plants.
She said it is a warning sign that BMO lowered Canada’s predicted growth rate from 1.5 per cent to zero per cent since the fires in Fort McMurray began, which suggests “our economic growth is going to suffer disastrously as a result,” she said.
Alberta’s Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman reiterated Clark’s speech about extracting and exporting natural resources from the west overseas in light of the disaster in Fort McMurray.
“As every member of our government continues to work to rebuild Fort McMurray, we’re also working to diversify our economy,” Hoffman said.
“Pipelines are the safest mode of transport, we don’t want to have trains full of oil product when it can be transported more safely. So we’re certainly having those ongoing conversations and look forward to getting a ‘yes’ in both directions.”
Clark said her government has always said any resource development project in B.C. only has to meet its five conditions to get to a ‘yes,’ but said that the federal government’s regulatory process is “terrible” and slow.
She said, as an example, the proposed Petronas LNG facility in northwestern B.C. was approved by her government in just 180 days, and has “very clearly” met those five conditions, but the federal regulatory process took more than 1,000 days.
“We can’t become a more uncertain place to develop resources, because we are competing with people around the world, we have to do it well,” she said.
Clark said Indigenous people want to participate in economic growth and “want to benefit from it more than they have in the past,” which was another priority outlined during the premiers’ meeting this week.
But at the same time that the premiers are touting the benefits of resource extraction, a group of Indigenous leaders from around Canada and the U.S. are organizing an opposing meeting in Vancouver next week.
According to representatives from Tsleil-Waututh First Nation’s anti-pipeline organization the Sacred Trust, the group is organizing and strategizing to underline their disapproval to the extraction and exportation of fossil fuels.
The group will include provincial and First Nations leaders and representatives. More information is expected to be released in coming days.