Jim Reiter. Government of Saskatchewan

While some cabinet portfolios tend to get shifted on a fairly regular basis, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Energy and Resources position has a tendency for longevity. The newest holder of that office is Jim Reiter, MLA for Rosetown-Elrose, having been appointed on May 31.

With a few weeks under his belt in the new position, Reiter spoke to Pipeline Online on June 22 about his background and future plans within the portfolio.

Reiter said, “I grew up in a little town in the Kerrobert-Unity-Wilkie area called Tramping Lake. And I moved to Rosetown in the early 80s. And I’ve been a fixture in Rosetown ever since. So that’s home, and the community has been amazing to me and my wife and I love it there.”

Reiter’s career prior to politics was in rural municipality administration, working with the RM of Marriott.

He won a contested nomination for the constituency candidacy in 2006, and was elected in 2007. As such, he’s been in power for the entire tenure of the Saskatchewan Party administration, and has never sat in opposition.

In 2009, then-Premier Brad Wall appointed Reiter to cabinet. And since then he’s held numerous portfolios, including Minister of Health, Minister of Highways and Infrastructure, Minister of First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, Minister of Government Relations, Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, and Minister Responsible for the Global Transportation Hub.

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He was in health for 4.5 years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy and Resources will likely be less stressful. Reiter said, “it’s so different. You know, I enjoyed my time in health, it was a privilege to do it. But you know, this having an economic file I am, I’m very excited about it, I’m enjoying it a lot.”

Jim Reiter in Estevan in September, 2020, for the opening of the newly restored drug addiction treatment centre. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

Asked where he wanted to go with the new portfolio, Reiter said, “In this ministry, there’s kind of the two prongs to it. There’s the regulatory front, and then there’s the promotional front.

He noted oil and gas sector is a huge part of it, adding, “Then there’s, you know, there’s the mining, there’s potash and uranium, and exciting things happening in helium. And then there’s the forestry. There’s a lot of it.

“I want to do whatever I can so our export partners, our trading partners, and the rest of the world understands that we are a source of clean, conflict-free energy, and I want to do whatever I can to help us increase production and help the world understand that they should be looking to us as an energy resource.”

Reiter is coming in at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has meant sanctions against their energy production and other items. Russia and its ally, Belarus, are both major potash producers as well. Indeed, earlier in the day, Reiter’s ministry put out a press release highlighting the efforts of Saskatchewan potash producers to dramatically increase production.

He said, “The potash companies here, are stepping up. They are understanding of geopolitical situation. because of the the tragedy in Ukraine. And so, we can fill that void. You see the plans for the potash producers expanding over the coming years. We can increase potash production. And we need to make the world understand that, just like oil and gas, we’re who they should be looking to, to replace that potash they’ve getting from Belarus and Russia.”

Saskatchewan’s oil production has remained relatively flat for the last two decades around its current level of roughly 450,000 barrels per day (bpd). But the Saskatchewan Growth Plan put forward by the Saskatchewan Party government aims to increase that by a third, to 600,000 bpd. Asked when the premier gave him his marching orders as energy minister, how much was focused on that growth, Reiter said, “He obviously said all things-Growth Plan. We intend to hit our targets and the Growth Plan in all areas, or as close as humanly possible to getthing there. He made if very clear he expects me to be working towards that.”

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Reiter pointed out that last week Premier Scott Moe, himself and a number of other cabinet members had roundtable discussions with different sectors of the economy, including oil and gas. One of the discussion points was what it would take to ramp up that production. Hearing from the participants, Reiter said, “They’re struggling with other issues, too – labor, that kind of thing. But one of the things that they mentioned over and over is that it’s access to capital. They’re in a situation, right now, where that’s difficult because of the way the world had been treating oil and gas. But there’s clearly still a huge demand. Transitioning away from it is still a long way down the road.

“Again, I come back to we need to do a good job of making it clear to the rest of the world that we are a clean source of energy. Environmentally friendly is better than anywhere in the world and conflict free, and we need a federal government to to stop paying lip service to it and actually start putting processes in place to make it happen, to make pipelines happen. So we’ve got some huge opportunities here. But we’ve also got some headwinds as well.”

When it comes to cancelled projects like TC Energy’s Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines, Reiter said, “You know what? Things change, right? Governments change. Attitudes of governments change. So I’m hopeful that projects like that are going to be revisited, because they just make so much sense. It just baffles me that we can see that.

You talked about Energy East, there’s a very easy way to get reliable energy sources from Western Canada to Eastern Canada. But we don’t do it in this country. Instead, we have eastern Canada, importing fuel from, in some cases, questionable jurisdictions. It’s just ridiculous. And I think, I think we got to get that story told, so people realize it. And like I said, governments, federal governments, either need to change their attitude, or we need to change the government.”

He would “absolutely” like to see Energy East, or a similar project, go ahead.

Asked about helium and lithium development, he said, “Obviously, it’s been exciting. What’s been happening so far, I’m optimistic about where that would go. I’m looking forward to talking to some of the folks involved in that development. I’ve met a few recently, but certainly I want to sit down to have a more in depth chat with them on it.”

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Asked where he wants to go with the portfolio over the next year, Reiter noted the promotional and regulatory nature of the portfolio, and said, “When I look at what’s happening around the world, right now, I really want to focus on that promotional side, I want to talk to as many folks in the various industries as I can, and do what we can to help develop those industries, and do what we can to help help them sell their products around the world.”

He hasn’t had a chance to get out to any sites since his new appointment, but has been to drilling sites before and a uranium mine. “I have done some of that in the past, but I want to do more of that. Hopefully this summer involves getting some of that done.”

Concluding, Reiter said, “I’ve been really fortunate in this government. I’ve had a lot of interesting files, but I am very excited about this one. There’s just so much happening. The future looks very bright. And for this province, and so much of that is, is on the energy sector. And I’m just really looking forward to it.

 

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  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
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