‘Not a zero sum game’: O’Regan says Canada has to lower emissions while recognizing international importance of Canadian oil

O’Regan denied the consultations were tone deaf and promoted them as a chance to hear from energy workers with ideas for how to lower emissions.

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Canada’s labor minister acknowledged the importance of Canadian oil amid the growing conflict in Ukraine while defending his government’s continued push to lower emissions.

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In Edmonton Thursday, Seamus O’Regan helped launch the next round of Ottawa’s consultations on proposed legislation aimed at a “just transition” towards a low-carbon economy. It’s a move Premier Jason Kenney labeled as “tone deaf” as countries ban Russian oil over that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I like and respect Minister O’Regan but I can’t explain why they would be coming here to talk about putting people out of work in the energy basin, which is the answer to the global supply and security problems. It’s exactly the wrong approach right now,” Kenney said at an unrelated event Thursday.

In an interview with Postmedia following Kenney’s comments, O’Regan denied the consultations were tone deaf and promoted them as a chance to hear from energy workers with ideas for how to lower emissions.

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“Canadian oil has never been more important, that’s for sure, but all I’m saying is one doesn’t take away from the other. This isn’t a zero sum game,” he said.

“We continue to lead the world. We’ve built the fourth biggest producer right now in the world. We should be proud of that fact. But I tell you, we really do have to figure out how we can lower emissions.”

In his 2019 election platform, as part of a pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a Just Transition Act to give “workers access to the training, support, and new opportunities needed to succeed in the clean economy ” but few details about what’s being considered have been made public.

O’Regan said the move is not about losing jobs and that oil and gas workers have the skills required to come up with a solution.

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“What we’re trying to do is build new opportunities, good union jobs, on areas where we can lower emissions and build up renewables,” he said.

Kenney meanwhile says policies designed for a world prior to the invasion of Ukraine show a “lack of realism” and has argued that Canada should be increasing oil production and look to build more infrastructure long term.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden has banned Russian oil imports while Britain has agreed to phase them out by the end of the year.

Kenney believes Alberta companies have the ability to produce an additional 200,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil and make up for most of the gap created in the American market.

“I think we’re living through a bit of a paradigm shift here when it comes to energy policy and it’s time for Canada to wake up and smell the coffee,” he said.

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In a statement Thursday, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa is looking at what Canada can do to ease pressure in international energy markets and soaring gas prices around the world while enabling Europe’s transition to energy from renewables and hydrogen.

“This crisis, caused by President Putin’s unjustifiable invasion, is happening at a time when the world also faces another crisis — that of climate change. This crisis demands early and aggressive action if we are to forest the devastating economic and social impacts that climate scientists and climate science tell us are certain absent such action,” he said.

“Canada is committed to addressing both crises concurrently.”

As part of the Just Transition Act consultations, the federal government is accepting comments written until April 30 at [email protected].

[email protected]


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