Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer touted his plan for a national energy corridor Saturday, pitching it not only as a way to benefit the struggling oil-and-gas sector, but also the environment.
Scheer made the announcement in Edmonton, a day after hundreds of thousands of young people flooded the streets in cities across Canada to demand action from leaders on fighting climate change. The protesters also called for fossil fuels to stay in the ground.
He was the only major party leader not to take part in any of the marches, but he insisted his energy corridor plan takes the environment into account.
“This corridor will allow the federal government to take care of and address environmental concerns up front,” said Scheer, who was surrounded by workers at energy sector services company FourQuest Energy.
“This will allow the federal government (to work) with provinces to identify the environmental challenges that have to be addressed by project proponents, and then those proponents will have to meet those standards in order for projects to proceed. So this is a balanced approach that achieves the dual goals of protecting the environment and allowing Canada to extract its natural resources.”
The national energy corridor would carry oil, gas, hydroelectricity and telecommunications from coast to coast, Scheer said. Such a plan would increase certainty for investors, help get critical projects built and generate economic and social benefits for all Canadians, he said.
“The benefits of Western Canadian oil and gas is shared with all Canadians,” Scheer, who first pitched the energy corridor proposal in May.
“It benefits every province in this country – refinery jobs in Eastern Canada, manufacturing jobs in Ontario and Quebec, the revenue that goes into the federal government that allows the federal government to support provincial programs for health and education…This is not a zero-sum game.”
Scheer didn’t put a timeline on the project, except to say he believes it can be achieved “in the medium term” and that work could be started within a four-year mandate.
The Conservatives said they would appoint a task force to provide recommendations that would consider Indigenous consultations, the role of provinces and a potential route for the corridor.
The co-author of a 2016 University of Calgary paper looking at the idea of such a corridor has said building it could take half a century and cost $100 billion.
Interest in a coast-to-coast corridor has picked up in recent years. The shortage of pipeline capacity out of Alberta has created a bottleneck that’s led to deep discounts for the oil, harming both the provincial and national economies.