The mayor of Alberta’s Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality said he believes the federal cabinet is giving the proposed Frontier mine a fair hearing as it weighs approving the oil sands project.
With just days to go before the federal cabinet decides whether to approve, reject or delay a decision on the mine, Mayor Don Scott led a delegation to Ottawa to press the case for the proposed project from Teck Resources Ltd. The two-day lobbying effort took place as the cabinet’s decision faces ever-increasing scrutiny.
Proponents of the project, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, are framing the decision as a test of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to Alberta and national unity, while opponents say it will be a measure of the Liberal cabinet’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
Mr. Trudeau is also facing rising pressure from within his own party as Liberal MPs start to publicly speak against it.
Mr. Scott said Thursday he believes cabinet is weighing the evidence on the case fairly and that’s what he’s hoping for what he called a "critical piece of Canadian infrastructure.”
Mr. Scott met with Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the Prime Minister’s special representative for the Prairies, Jim Carr, and had a phone call with Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson during his two days in Ottawa.
The Frontier mine would be built in the Wood Buffalo municipality, a sprawling area in northern Alberta that includes Fort McMurray and dozens of oil sands facilities. But even if cabinet approves the project, the mine’s future is far from certain. The economic conditions it needs to be viable – including a higher oil price and pipeline capacity – aren’t there.
Many other oil sands projects, which were already approved for construction by regulators, have been shelved because of those market conditions. But Mr. Scott said even if the Frontier mine doesn’t get built, he believes its approval would send an important signal to international investors that Alberta is “open for business."
He said he made the case for the economic benefits that the project would bring, including thousands of jobs and the potential for billions in government revenue. He said the ministers told him Alberta’s 100 megatonne emissions limit for the oil sands is “one of the factors being taken into account” in the decision.
Mr. Wilkinson told reporters he and other ministers were meeting with Mr. Scott because they are trying to hear all perspectives as they weigh their options.
The cap hasn’t been regulated and so isn’t being enforced, even as Ottawa says the oil patch is projected to hit the limit in the decade. On Wednesday, Mr. Wilkinson urged his provincial counterpart Jason Nixon to regulate the cap. However, Alberta disputes Ottawa’s emissions data and says the sector is “nowhere near” hitting its emissions limit.
The mine would add another 4.1 megatonnes in emissions from oil sands. Mr. Wilkinson said he and Mr. Nixon are scheduled to discuss the matter in a Friday call.