Pressure is growing on Justin Trudeau to take a leadership role in ensuring major pipeline projects get approved as the Liberal Prime Minister and his cabinet kick off a second retreat to plot economic strategy.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was among those making presentations to the Trudeau cabinet Sunday at a resort in Alberta's Kananaskis Country and she met privately with the PM afterward.
She widely telegraphed her plan to press the federal leader on the urgent need for new pipeline capacity to carry Alberta energy to market, such as the Energy East project that would transport bitumen to Canada's East Coast but faces a rough ride in Quebec, as well as the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline through B.C.
Ms. Notley, speaking after her meeting with the Liberal cabinet, said her goal was to make a "compelling case" to the federal government and she felt she had a "good hearing" Sunday. She said she offered ministers statistics on the contribution Alberta makes to the national economy, including jobs and the contribution to federal government revenue. "I made the case that Alberta's economic health is linked to Canada's economic health."
She said there is a need for leadership across the country.
"What we also need to do is collectively understand there is a larger project that we all need to roll up our sleeves and one of them is to ensure that as a nation we can establish a level of economic prosperity that supports all of those villages," Ms. Notley said.
"We can't do that if we don't come together and we aren't prepared to negotiate and we need leadership on that across the country."
"Building pipelines does not have to mean we are quadrupling our production ... it allows us the opportunity to choose our markets strategically and get the best price for our product," she said.
The Premier recently bemoaned the lack of national unity on pipeline development, saying Canada is "acting like a bunch of villages as opposed to a nation" and the inability to ship to new markets forces Canadians to accept discounted prices for petroleum.
Final decision on Energy East, for instance, rests with the federal cabinet and Ms. Notley has said she wants to ensure not only Mr. Trudeau "but as many cabinet ministers as possible" understand the economic benefits of these pipelines would flow to many regions of this country.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney has begun sounding the alarm about the logjam facing major proposed pipelines. He's warning that the regulatory delays may end up killing pipeline projects and is urging Mr. Trudeau to use his office to help clear the path for construction of these megaprojects that could generate long-term jobs for Canada.
In an interview on CTV's Question Period with The Globe and Mail's Robert Fife that aired Sunday, Mr. Mulroney talked of the need for Mr. Trudeau to act as a persuader-in-chief for megaproject development and assuage pipeline concerns raised by aboriginal groups, environmental activists and provincial leaders.
He suggested Mr. Trudeau start with Energy East and then proceed to others.
"View this triumvirate of challenges, namely the aboriginals, the environmentalists and the provinces who control the resources, as a nation-building opportunity, and [use] his skills and his style and his interests to bring them together to proceed with a nation-building exercise of moving our vast natural resources to the West and East coasts to provide employment and wealth for all Canadians," Mr. Mulroney said.
"It's a big challenge. And there's nothing guaranteed, but that's what leadership is all about … and if he does it, it will be a big-ticket item going right into the history books, because we cannot keep 174 billion barrels of oil in Alberta locked in the [ground] and do nothing about it. This is wealth that was God-given to Canada, and so we have to take advantage of it, but it requires the Prime Minister's leadership."
In speech last week, Mr. Mulroney criticized the Liberal government's slow-going approach to regulatory approval of these projects. Mr. Trudeau has said his government wants to be a "responsible mediator" rather than a "cheerleader," and federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has said the Liberals have no interest in rushing the process.
The former prime minister, speaking to the Business Council of Canada, a lobby group, last week, said the Liberals aren't helping by allowing the regulatory reviews of such projects to expand without clear limits. "By arbitrarily extending the scope, the time and the expense of the regulatory reviews, the government is actually injecting more uncertainty into the process and undermining the credibility of the regulatory institutions charged with that responsibility," he said.
"There is a growing risk that, due to protracted delays, mounting opposition, escalating costs and the lack of distinct political support, essential pipeline projects may die stillborn – just like the ill-fated Mackenzie [Valley] Pipeline – with severe damage to a vital sector of our economy that is already reeling from depressed prices"
Other people speaking to the Trudeau cabinet Sunday include Dominic Barton, the Canadian management consultant who works for McKinsey & Co. and was tapped to head the Liberal government's economic advisory council. Mr. Barton spoke about the benefits of Canada-China trade and investment. Another speaker was Michael Barber, a former top British civil servant under former prime minister Tony Blair who teaches governments how they can effectively deliver on their promises.