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On Nov. 27, 2012, Joe Oliver met with Al Monaco. It was a meeting of titans in Canada's energy sector. Mr. Oliver, the Natural Resources Minister, is Ottawa's pipeline point-man, while Mr. Monaco is the head of Enbridge, a major pipeline company behind the high-profile Northern Gateway project.
So what did Mr. Oliver need to know?
Briefing notes prepared for the minister by the department lift the curtain on the high-level talks, but include a proviso: don't talk about Gateway specifically. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any specific application currently before the National Energy Board," reads one of five "key messages" outlined as reminders for the minister. And yet, it included Northern Gateway details as "considerations."
Another key message notes that "for Canadian crude oil production to continue to grow, new pipelines or other means of transportation must be developed to reach markets in Canada, the U.S. and the world." Another notes the government supports "any private sector project" so long as it meets "all the applicable regulatory and environmental requirements."
Northern Gateway would carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta's oil sands to Kitimat on B.C.'s west coast. The project is under review by the National Energy Board, and faced substantial opposition. Hearings are done and a decision is due by Dec. 31, 2013.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has attached a set of conditions to its approval, including an unspecified "fair share" of its benefits. Mr. Oliver was urged to discuss that with Mr. Monaco.
"You may wish to seek Mr. Monaco's views on working with the B.C. Government, especially given Premier Clark's announcement earlier this year regarding the five conditions that must be met to permit heavy oil pipelines within the province," it said.
The briefing notes were released to The Globe and Mail under the Access to Information Act. They are partially redacted – in particular, the entire section on "aboriginal benefits" of Northern Gateway and part of the section about Ms. Clark are blacked out.
They noted that "Enbridge is also ranked as one of Canada's 'greenest employers,'" an apparent reference to an award the company received in 2012. It didn't receive the same award in 2013.
The briefing notes that media coverage of a Kitimat refinery, proposed by David Black and meant for Northern Gateway's crude oil, "has diminished." Part of that section is also redacted.
It includes briefings on Enbridge's plan to reverse Line 9 B, an existing line that it hopes could be used to provide oil to Quebec refineries, and its application to expand the Alberta Clipper pipeline to the United States by boosting pumping capacity. It also outlines Enbridge's plans to expand oil shipments to the U.S., noting: "minimal permitting [is] required." Finally, the briefing package includes a one-page biography of Mr. Monaco.
According to Canada's lobbyist registry, it was the most recent meeting between Mr. Monaco and Mr. Oliver. On that same day in November, the lobbyist registry shows Mr. Monaco also met with Alykhan Velshi, Director of Planning in the Prime Minister's Office, and two other PMO officials. Enbridge officials met with 15 other MPs that day, including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair.
Enbridge continues to regularly lobby the Canadian government. In April, Mr. Monaco filed a report to the lobbyist registry to disclose meetings with another 14 MPs. In March, he reported meetings with seven senators.
Josh Wingrove is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa.