Canada needs to expand its market opportunities for crude oil now that a deal on Iran's nuclear program is expected to open up that country's oil supply to international trade, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said Monday.
Speaking during a news conference at the Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference in Halifax, Mr. Rickford said market access is not a priority, it's an imperative. He said Canada is well-positioned to expand its market given its political and economic stability.
"This is an economic and a political advantage that I think [sets Canada apart from] other countries who are net exporters of petroleum products," said Mr. Rickford. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We have to be vigilant in our efforts to ensure that we can supply a market beyond where we currently are."
He said Ottawa is working toward that end, adding that there are eight new markets exporting Canadian crude, including Spain, France and Hong Kong.
During a keynote speech on Monday afternoon, Mr. Rickford highlighted that between 2005 and 2014 Canada's crude oil exports grew by 81 per cent.
"In Italy, the value of Canadian imports grew almost six-fold between 2013 and 2014, and now account for more than 3 per cent of Italy's crude oil imports," he said.
Mr. Rickford also pointed to the government's new pipeline safety measures during his speech, which include absolute liability for all National Energy Board-regulated pipelines. Pipeline safety has been top of mind for Ottawa as it pushes the Obama administration to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf.
The Keystone XL oil pipeline, which is designed to go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, has been mired in the U.S. regulatory process for nearly seven years.
Delays in approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline have caused friction between the U.S. and Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil production. Canada relies on the U.S. for 97 per cent of its energy exports.
Last week, the country's premiers and territorial leaders were in Newfoundland and Labrador to talk about energy issues, including the proposed Energy East pipeline, which would transport Alberta bitumen to New Brunswick.