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It’s time for Alberta to play hardball, oilpatch execs say before Trudeau meeting today

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to caucus meeting on Parliament Hill Wednesday February 3, 2016 in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Alberta this week to take stock of the devastation wrought by the collapse in oil prices.

Trudeau’s rebranding of Canada offers sunshine to Davos, but it’s cold comfort for battered oilpatch

Like it or not, he will also get an earful over the spate of anti-energy moves made by his government that will make a recovery harder.

Indeed, despite declaring in Calgary in the final days of his election campaign last October that “Alberta matters deeply to me,” his policy choices so far have shown the opposite.

They include: Formalizing a moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the northern B.C. coast that handcuffs the already-permitted Northern Gateway pipeline; additional regulatory requirements for the proposed TransMountain pipeline expansion and the Energy East pipeline conversion that lengthen and duplicate already-unwieldy regulatory processes; reforms to the National Energy Board that shake confidence in Canada’s ability to get anything built; and a climate change test on export pipelines that gives Ottawa new powers over Alberta’s energy resources.

We know Canada’s economic engine is limping, and the fact that he is here is a clear indication that he understands the federal government cannot be in the sidelines.

Trudeau pushed through the changes to gain ‘social licence’ for pipelines after no progress was made under the Conservatives. The result so far is that they have empowered opposition and fuelled anger and division, making solutions even more difficult to achieve.

Still, there is appreciation for the visit, which at the very least shows good intentions so early in his mandate.

“It’s very clear to me, based on everything I see in the public domain, the Prime Minister appreciates the seriousness of the situation,” said Asim Ghosh, president and CEO of integrated oil company Husky Energy Inc. “We know Canada’s economic engine is limping, and the fact that he is here is a clear indication that he understands the federal government cannot be in the sidelines.”

Trudeau could help by providing timely review of pipelines, suggested Ghosh, whose company is a large heavy oil and oilsands producer in Western Canada, and also by being mindful of Canada’s competitiveness when boosting environmental requirements.

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