Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, in Regina, on June 28. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

REGINA – It’s not often the minister largely responsible for implementing an idea to essentially phase out a nation’s most significant industry talks about that, here in Saskatchewan, but federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson did just that on Wednesday, June 28. He spoke to the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce at Innovation Place, on the University of Regina campus.

Wilkinson is one of the few prominent ministers in the federal cabinet with strong Saskatchewan ties, including having grown up in Saskatoon, having led the Saskatchewan NDP youth wing, and having worked in the Roy Romanow NDP government.

He’s got a lot to say. Above is the video of his speech, including a half-hour question and answer period. Below is his speech, verbatim:

 

It’s certainly a great pleasure to be with you today.

I appreciate the time to spend a little bit of time speaking. but also I look forward to the questions that that you will pose. And certainly, it’s always great to be back in Saskatchewan. As was mentioned, I grew up in this province, and not in Regina, but in Saskatoon. But I spent a number of years living in this beautiful city, working for the Province of Saskatchewan and actually was a negotiator for the province visa vie the federal government for a number of years.

Around the world businesses, both small and large, … unions and governments are in a race to reduce carbon emissions, to seize the extraordinary economic opportunities that can be enabled through a shift towards a lower carbon future. And certainly, to avoid the destructive impacts that we see all around us that relate to climate change.

Increasingly, global financial markets are pushing in that direction, with investment decisions being focused on those assets that are actually relevant in a low carbon future and away from those that are not. As you folks in the business community will know very well, businesses must learned to adapt to changes that are occurring in their business environment. If they don’t, they don’t typically survive very long. It is what their shareholders expect. It is certainly what their employees depend upon.

Governments are no different. In order to effectively serve their citizens, we must be capable of responding to changing circumstances and to taking decisive action. The economic future of Canadians depends on their governments; provincial, territorial, federal, municipal making the right decisions to make sure Canada will thrive in a lower carbon world. The good news is Canada is extremely well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. I would tell you that if you were somebody who got to choose where you were going to live, based on the economic prospects in the context of this lower carbon future, you would undoubtedly choose Canada. And you would probably secondly choose Australia, for almost exactly the same reasons.

We have very significant areas of comparative advantage, which of course, are what drive business success that will be relevant in a low carbon world. It is up to us, as a country, to make the smartest possible choices. Canada can choose to be a leader in the context of this transition. Or it will pass us by,  Going slow and just hoping for the best is a choice. But I would tell you, it is a much riskier choice for the future prosperity of Canadians.

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Two paths

There are essentially two paths that we could take. The first accepts the scientific reality of climate change, and understands that it’s something we can and that we must address. It also accepts the fact that the world is moving increasingly in this direction. The second path shrugs off the damage that climate change is already causing; the dramatic floods that we see in towns and cities, the dramatic fires in our forests that we are seeing across the country, in almost every province and territory right now. Dried up rivers, melting glaciers; it pretends the climate concern is a fad that effectively will fade and that we don’t really need to do anything to ensure that our economy is healthy for the long term.

I think of the first path as having a real plan for the future. And the second as essentially hoping for the best. The focus of any relevant plan for the future has to be on an economy that works for all Canadians, in every province and territory in this country. And very much including those who work in conventional energy, and those who, quite naturally, have some questions about a global shift in energy demand could mean.

We need a thoughtful strategy in which the economy changes and grows stronger and more resilient. And the environment is also better protected. Successful strategies, as I said before, leverage comparative advantages and make no mistake, Canada has a lot going for it for us to be the winner, or a winner, on the global scale. We have a very well educated and highly trained workforce. We have a lot of the natural resources that are going to increasingly be in demand including critical minerals. I noted somebody from Cameco here, certainly uranium, hydrogen and a range of other things. Strong and innovative, clean and clean energy and energy technology, expertise, banking, regulatory, political and legal systems that are stable, which is not an insignificant thing.

Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, in Regina, on June 28. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Four key elements to plan

The plan for the future has essentially four key elements. The first is to identify and seize those economic opportunities that are going to be enabled through a shift towards a lower carbon future. From critical minerals to hydrogen, from carbon capture to electric vehicles, from renewables to biofuels, and small modular reactors. The Government of Canada has been working for the past seven years on strategies, investments, improving regulations to help make Canada the clean energy and technology supplier of choice in a low carbon world. Each province and territory has a relatively unique mix of their own natural resources. The best opportunities, therefore, in a clean energy transition will be different in different provinces. What is an opportunity in British Columbia will look different in Saskatchewan, will look different in Nova Scotia.

That is why our plan has both a sectoral and a regional focus. It certainly is focused on aligning the efforts of different levels of government and respecting the rights in the interests of Indigenous peoples.

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Regional energy and resource tables

One of the innovative mechanisms that we developed was called the regional energy and resource tables, which is really a mechanism through which we work to align resourcing, targeting, planning, regulatory and permitting processes with provincial governments and with Indigenous partners. The idea is to actually work together, effectively, to help to paint a picture for Canadians in every province and territory about what this low carbon future will look like. Presently, we have tables running with nine provinces and territories and there will be two or three that will start up in the next few months. Here in Saskatchewan, we are, I am, very keen to partner with the province on economic priorities that it has identified, including biofuels, hydrogen, critical minerals, SMRs, and renewable energy. My view is that through a mechanism such as this, where we can work to align strategies, financial resources, regulations and permitting, we can make significant progress for the Saskatchewan economy in areas where there is no significant disagreement between the federal and provincial government.

Just this week, I provided an update with my British Columbia counterpart on the on the progress under the BC table. The announcement included multiple project announcements, a focus on regulatory pilots to accelerate critical minerals development, and a range of other things. There are important specific projects on which federal provincial collaboration, here in Saskatchewan, has been and remains ongoing, including the BHP Jansen potash mine, renewable energy projects with the Cowessess First Nation, Foran Mining copper proposal and the Saskatchewan Research Council’s critical minerals processing facility, amongst others.

Saskatchewan rejects federal tables

However, in my mind, much more could be done if we approach such economic concept or conversations in a more integrated and more collaborative way. Recently, as you likely know, the Government of Saskatchewan rejected the idea of setting up such a collaborative table. I think this is unfortunate. However, I continue to discuss important economic matters with my counterparts and Minister (Don) Morgan, Minister (Jim) Reiter, in Regina and I remain hopeful that Saskatchewan in Canada will find a pathway to collaborate more closely on how we can work together to build an economy that will provide good jobs and economic opportunity for Saskatchewanians in a lower carbon future.

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Four Saskatchewan projects get funding

Going forward, the federal government will be reaching out directly to Indigenous leadership, to industry and to labour, to ensure we are hearing from you, and responding to you, with respect to our efforts aimed at enabling economic opportunities going forward. And with respect to economic opportunities, I’m pleased to announce today federal funding for a number of clean energy projects across the province These include $7 million for four renewable energy projects in partnership with Pisim Energy, the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Star Blanket Cree Nation and the northern settlement of Descharme Lake.

The federal government will also be investing an additional $10 million in BioLesna Carbon Technologies for a new bio refinery in Carrot River. This refinery will convert residual biomass from forest operations into materials like biochar, Bio Oil, wood vinegar and pyrolysis gas, which can then be refined into value added products.

And tomorrow morning, I will be in Kipling to make a significant funding announcement relating to renewable energy.

Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson, in Regina, on June 28. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

Oil and gas

A second key element of a plan for the future is to have a thoughtful approach when it comes to Canada’s oil and gas resources. In virtually all forecasts worldwide demand for oil will begin to decline within 10 years, and it will continue to decline as zero emission vehicles and other low carbon technologies are deployed in greater numbers. As you will know very well, oil is primarily a transportation fuel. And as we see more deployment of zero emission vehicles, it is simply the logic that we will start to see a decline. So this transition will take place away from the combustion of fossil fuels. It will take place, but it will take place over decades, not tomorrow, not the week after.

I would also say that there are many who think that somehow when you reach net-zero future in 2050, that that somehow we will not need oil or gas beyond that time. And that’s simply again, logically incorrect. In the International Energy Agency’s 1.5 degrees scenario, the world will still use about a quarter of the oil that it uses today in 2050. And in their, what they call their announced measure scenario, (the) figure is about 57% of what it is today.

Similarly, just last week, the Canadian Energy Regulator released a country-level report that showed that as the world accelerates climate action that will mean a decrease in global demand for oil and gas. As with the IEA report, the Canadian Energy Regulator report, which is an independent arm’s length agency, but I asked them for this report, outlines two scenarios; one in which Canada and the vast majority of developed world achieve net zero by 2050, but some large developing countries, read China and India achieved net-zero slightly later. This scenario is consistent with what has been announced as the pledges under the Paris Agreement, and with one of the scenarios that the IEA developed and foresees a 1.7 degree rise in global average temperature.

The second scenario paints a future where Canada and the world collectively achieve Net Zero by 2050, capping global temperature rises at 1.5 degrees. In both scenarios, global demand for oil falls significantly, but obviously less significantly in the scenario where India and China achieved net-zero later. It is important to note that the degree to which global demand for oil falls is not within Canada’s control. In both of these scenario Canada, itself achieves net-zero in 2050.

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Canada will no longer burn oil

Another important thing to notice is the change beyond 2050 and how oil will be used, we will no longer use significant amounts of oil in combustion applications. At the end of the day, it is the combustion of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide that causes climate change. Where we will use it beyond 2050 As in non-combustion applications like petrochemicals, asphalt, lubricants, solvents, carbon graphite, waxes and a range of other things. Similarly, for natural gas ,and the findings are quite similar, there will be applications beyond 2050 in the production of ultra low carbon hydrogen, and there will be utilization of gas in the context of applications where you can effectively capture the carbon, like producing electricity from natural gas with carbon capture.

It is important to emphasize during the next 30 years, as the volume of hydrocarbon use is reduced and as uses change, countries that focus on producing hydrocarbons with ultra low production emissions are going to be winners in terms of the saleability of their products in the global market. And those that don’t are going to inevitably lose market share. There is thus a critical choice for Canada, for Newfoundland and Labrador, for British Columbia, for Alberta, and yes, for Saskatchewan.

In terms of taking aggressive action to reduce emissions from the production of oil and gas, it is crucial for any producing country and certainly any province that wishes to capitalize on these resources during the energy transition and into a post-2050 net-zero world.

 

More clean power to double the grid

The third element of our plan relates to building out more clean power. A lot more. That’s not just to ensure that you actually have an electricity system that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. It is because that, in order to achieve the reductions in greenhouse gases in many other parts of the economy via transportation with the electrification of transportation or home heating, you need a lot more clean power.

It is also the case that increasingly industry is going to be demanding clean power. And I have talked to many businesses here in Saskatchewan, that need clean power because they have their own carbon targets, and they have to account for the carbon that is embedded in the products that they actually sell, which means they can’t use, at this point, energy that is coming off of the SaskPower grid.

We need to find ways to ensure that we are working with provinces and territories, yes, to decarbonize the existing energy grid, but to build far more in the way of capacity. And in fact, we will need to double, or more, the generating capacity that exists in every province by 2050.

Building out a clean Canadian power grid at the pace and the scale that is necessary is an enormous undertaking. It is a nation building project as big as anything we have ever done in this country.

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You may have seen recently that the whole issue around electricity in the grid has been a bit of a subject of some public discussion between the Premier and myself. There is no disagreement, I think, on either side, that Canada’s electricity systems in every province and territory must continue to be reliable. They must be affordable for ratepayers. But they also increasingly must be focused on reducing the carbon intensity of the electricity that is provided. It is an environmental imperative, but it is also now an economic imperative. Being able to provide clean power to industry is increasingly the price of entry and marketing products internationally. Having a grid with abundant clean power is, and will, be a significant comparative advantage for Canada. There’s a reason why Volkswagen for example, is locating its battery facility in St. Thomas, Ontario, and not in the United States.

Firms looking to export products like critical minerals, hydrogen, biofuels, potash, steel and aluminum, are increasingly being held to account regarding the carbon content of their products. Take the example of BHP. As Saskatchewanians know, that $7.5 billion investment in the Jansen potash mine, when that was announced, the press release underlined the importance of emissions reductions to its overall business. BHP made a number of statements in that, because they’re eager to know that lowering emissions is a priority because that is what their customers want.

And they are not alone. Foran Mining, which I mentioned before, which is looking to develop a major copper deposit in northeastern Saskatchewan, is looking to develop a net-zero critical minerals mine because again, the people who are going to be using the copper that comes from that mind are going to have to account for the embedded carbon in the products that they are sourcing.

And similarly the Saskatchewan Research Council is aiming, as you know, to develop the critical minerals processing facility, and it would need to account for the carbon content that is embedded in its products, including the carbon content of the electricity it takes from the grid.

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It is not just Canada that is working to achieve a net-zero grid by 2035. It is in fact every G7 country; every one of them has committed to that target. Just last week, the United States released its regulatory approach to achieving a net-zero grid by 2035.

Overall, this conversation should not be about slowing things down. It should be about accelerating growth. It is certainly about being sensitive to regional realities, but also being aware of changes happening around the world. At the end of the day, the vast, vast majority of Canadians in every province and territory accept the scientific reality of climate change is that it is an issue that we must address. I am personally interested in a forward-looking conversation about how we can do so in a manner which ensures affordability while creating good jobs and economic opportunity in every province and territory.

Indigenous engagement and participatiion

And finally, the fourth and crucial pillar of a plan for the future is meaningful indigenous engagement and active participation. The Government of Canada has an obligation and is committed to advancing reconciliation across this country. This very much includes the natural resources space where Indigenous consultation and partnership must be very much at the heart of what we do. Indeed, a robust approach to enabling Indigenous economic participation and major resource projects is a key part of advancing economic reconciliation. And I hope to have more to say about this, in terms of how the federal government can contribute through financial tools to enable such participation, within the coming months.

These four elements are the foundation for a natural resource and resource enabled industrial strategy that will drive jobs, competitiveness and economic prosperity for Canadians in a low carbon future. And while this work has been underway for seven years, and over $120 billion, has been committed by the federal government between 2015 and 2022, the recent budget in 2023, represented fundamental intergenerational additional investment in clean growth.

We committed another $86 billion on top of the $120 billion. And the focus was very much on enabling the development of critical minerals mines, enabling the development of biofuels facilities and hydrogen facilities, and a significant step forward, in terms of providing a tax-related measure to enable provincial governments to build out their clean electricity system, something the federal government has never done before. And it includes refundability for public utilities, something that government has never done before.

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Hoping for the best

As a direct result of the measures that were contained in the budget, one of the leading energy research firms published a statement saying that Canada had now become the second-best jurisdiction in the world for investments in renewables. As I mentioned, off the top, there is an alternative to the plan for the future. That is what I refer to as the second path, or effectively, hoping for the best.

In my mind, that path ignores the very clear evidence as to how climate change is undermining the health and safety of people and the planet. Such a head in the sand approach will lead to environmental devastation and economic stagnation as the world, including global investors, pass us by. Some in this country will tell you that one can fight climate change and create a healthy and prosperous economy for a low carbon future by simply relying on technology. I would say my colleague in the House of Commons, Mr. Poilievre, is fond of using the tagline “Technology, not taxes,” by which he means simply plan on or hope on technology to save us.

But I will tell you that is not a plan. That is a blind hope. I spent 20 years developing industrial technology in this space. And I will tell you that I know the power of technology and the importance of technology in the context of both fighting climate change and building an economy that can be strong. But it is not, in itself, enough. You will not deploy CCUS technology without a price on pollution. You will not deploy it without regulations, and investments, on the part of government. The idea that somehow hoping on technology to be the savior is something that is not a plan.

This hope for the best approach will lead Canada and the Canadian economy down a path to obsolescence and the loss of many thousands of jobs, including in Canada’s energy sector. Such an approach will create uncertainty and dissuade investment coming to Canada, which is of course the opposite of what we need.

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I honestly don’t mean for this to be perceived as overly partisan. I entered politics after 20-plus years in the private sector because of climate-related concerns. And I’ve always said that a measure of my success would be in seeing all political parties in this country accepting the reality of climate change, and moving the debate to how, from a credible perspective, to address it.

I hope that Canadians who identify themselves as conservatives will push their leaders very hard to acknowledge this, and to work to ensure real and substantive policy positions moving forward.

Calling out those against everything

In closing, I just want to share a thought about what this means for the business community and the environmental community. If we think about what needs to be done, to the environmental movement, I will paraphrase Bill McKibben, who is a US environmentalist, and an unrelenting advocate of a healthy planet. When he said, quote, “It’s time to build. It is time to say, ‘Yes, in our backyards.’”

The path I have outlined today, this plan for the future, requires that we are able to rapidly build significant new infrastructure, clean energy generation and transmission, critical minerals, mines and processing, hydrogen production and transportation facilities, renewable energy projects and many, many more. And we must do so in a manner that respects nature and respects Indigenous rights. We must do so thoughtfully. And yes, we must do so efficiently. Time is not our friend in the fight against climate change.

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    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
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    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
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    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
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    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
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    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
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    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
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    0015 Latus Viro
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    0052 Predator Inspections
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    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
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    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
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    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
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    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
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We must do these things to be able to bring forward a future that is far more sustainable in the situation in which we presently find ourselves. At this historic moment, the environmental movement, which has at times, found itself to be in opposition to some development, will need to become comfortable with an enhanced focus on building things. In the right way for sure, but building things.

To the business community, I would say that explicit and concrete commitments to Canada’s and the world’s emissions reduction and nature protection goals are table stakes for the energy transition conversation. Too often, I hear some folks imply or even explicitly state that Canada should get a pass on its emissions reduction targets either because our absolute emissions are small, on a relative basis, although on a per capita basis, they’re number one or number two in the world. Or that somehow we can contribute to the emissions reductions of other countries without being concerned about our own performance at home. Neither of those arguments work, and to be honest, both right at the edge of denying the reality and the urgency of climate change. Both ignore the structure of international agreements to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

No country gets a pass, or every country does. Canada can either model behaviors that will help the world achieve the targets that will allow us to avoid ecological catastrophe. Or we can play an active part in leaving unimaginable environmental challenges to our children. I would also re-emphasize that taking the position of ignoring climate action at home will also ensure that Canada misses out on the enormous economic opportunities that can be enabled through such a shift. We have a historic opportunity to protect the environment and generate wealth for our citizens at the same time.

So, it is time to build, in a manner that addresses environmental sustainability, and in a manner that fully respects the rights and the interests of indigenous peoples. But let us be clear, it is time to build.

The picture I have hopefully painted today as of two different futures for this country, one that takes the world as it is, accepts the future that seems most likely and helps people seize the opportunities available to them. It is a plan for the future. It is not simply hoping for the best. It is about an economy that will work for everyone, very much including the thousands of Canadian energy workers whose skills and work ethic will continue to help shape our success. Overall, a clear-eyed and thoughtful plan for the future is about a national effort to pass on an environment and an economy that will help our children and their children flourish for many, many decades to come. My thanks for having me here today. I certainly look forward to our conversation. Merci beaucoup.

 

  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 9001
  • 0002

 

Natural gas power generation with carbon capture likely allowed post-2035, says federal natural resources minister