Skip to main content

The proposed project, spread over 24,000 hectares in northeastern Alberta, could produce up to 260,000 barrels a day of bitumen.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Alberta has drawn a line in the sand over the Teck Frontier project, challenging Ottawa to approve the oil sands development or risk destroying its relationship with the province.

The proposed project, spread over 24,000 hectares in northeastern Alberta, could produce up to 260,000 barrels a day of bitumen. It has been given the go-ahead from federal and provincial regulators, but its fate now lies in the hands of the federal cabinet, which is due to make a final decision this month.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon told reporters in Calgary on Friday that “there is no excuse” for the federal government to withhold final approvals after the project spent the past decade undergoing reviews.

Story continues below advertisement

Opinion: The lose-lose proposition that is the Teck Frontier oil sands project

Teck has played by the rules, he said, and for Ottawa to change those rules at the 11th hour would send “a devastating signal” to potential investors in Alberta and across Canada.

“Their decision in the next few weeks, when it comes to this project, will determine much of the future on interprovincial and federal relations in the months and years to come.”

“We have a unity crisis brewing in this country,” he said, and Albertans will not accept anything other than a greenlight for the project.

Mr. Nixon’s comments came after reports Thursday that Ottawa is considering a potential aid package for Alberta in the event it nixes the Teck Frontier mine. The minister said he had heard no such plans from his federal counterparts.

“Albertans are not looking for a Justin Trudeau handout. We’re not interested in that. We want Justin Trudeau and the federal government to get out of Alberta’s way and let hard-working Albertans do what they do best, which is create prosperity for this province and create prosperity for this country,” he said.

Although Alberta’s United Conservative government has been pushing for changes to federal fiscal stabilization transfers, Finance Minister Bill Morneau rejected any suggestion that the cabinet’s decision on the mine is connected to government efforts on that front.

The fiscal-stabilization program is meant to provide short-term federal assistance when provinces face sharp year-over-year declines in revenue due to an economic shock. Mr. Morneau announced in December that his department would look at enhancements to the program after Alberta and other provinces said it was outdated.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Morneau told reporters on Friday that the work is in progress and likely will not be complete until spring. While he declined to be more specific, that timeline suggests an update could come in his next federal budget.

“We’re working on how we can create opportunity in parts of the country that have the need for increased job opportunities. So that is the way I would characterize it.”

“We’re thinking about how we can create advantage through investments across the country. The issues around Teck Frontier are separate and distinct. That’s going through a process that’s going to the cabinet."

Mr. Nixon said Albertans are “waiting with bated breath” to hear whether the federal government will allow the Frontier mine. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi – attending a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting of big-city mayors in Ottawa – is also hearing repeatedly about the proposed oil sands mine.

He said he has been stopped in the street and in his hotel lobby by Liberal MPs who want his take on the project. “It’s absolutely top-of-mind. And no one knows what will happen.”

The Calgary mayor said if the project is turned down, international investors in every industry would question whether Canada is a good place to spend money. “And certainly, within the energy sector, people would say, ‘Is this a moratorium? Does this mean no more energy projects in Canada, ever?’ ”

Story continues below advertisement

He added that the Frontier mine is a good project and should be approved, but that the rest of Canada also needs to understand what Alberta’s climate plans are. “It would be helpful to dial down the rhetoric and the heat on both sides, and talk about what would be a rational way forward.”

With reports from Kelly Cryderman in Calgary and and Bill Curry in Ottawa

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies