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Notes for a Speech by
The Honourable Joe Oliver
Minister of Natural Resources
World-Class Tanker Safety System
at the Port Metro Vancouver
March 18, 2013
Good afternoon everyone.
Today, I want to talk about the importance of our natural resources and the Harper Government’s commitment to responsible resource development.
For decades now, natural resources have been a key driver of Canada’s economy — the natural resources sector accounts for nearly 20% of our economy — that’s one-fifth of all the economic activity in Canada.
Over the next decade, we expect upwards of $650 billion to be invested in major resource projects. That means hundreds of thousands of jobs for middle-class Canadian families in every sector of our economy and in every region of the country.
Here in British Columbia, resource industries already make up 13% of the economy. They generate billions in royalties and tax revenues — dollars that support schools, hospitals and other vital services.
If Canadians are to benefit fully from this resource potential, market diversification is essential. Our products need to reach buyers in Asia, the United States and around the world.
We have an opportunity to ensure that our products – particularly oil and liquefied natural gas – reach world markets and command world prices. Our government knows that to be an energy superpower we need a world class safety system for our waters.
What does that mean to command world prices? Well, current estimates show that we lose $22 billion each year because the United States, which buys 99% of our oil exports, pays less. That is more than the province of BC plans to spend this year on healthcare and education combined.
Factor in the difference between the price which our only buyer, the United States, pays for natural gas – about three dollars – versus the price in Asia, which hovers around sixteen to seventeen dollars, even though there will be tough commercial negotiations, the opportunity for Canada is staggering.
Through our plan for Responsible Resource Development, we’ve set firm beginning to end timelines for project reviews. Where provincial review processes meet federal requirements, we can eliminate unnecessary duplication that was weighing down project reviews and get projects moving faster.
But our plan is not just about developing resources efficiently. It’s about developing them responsibly. Simply put, we will not approve projects unless they can be done safely.
Our government is committed to protecting the environment. We know that Canadian families want to be sure that the water they drink and the air they breathe is clean.
We have committed to the same economy-wide 17% reduction target as the U.S. and projections show we are already half way to meeting that commitment in respect to greenhouse gas emissions.
In some areas we are doing more than anyone else. Coal is the largest source of GHG emissions in the world, and Canada is the only country with regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity.
Since 2006, the Government of Canada has added almost 150,000 square kilometres to Parks Canada's network of protected areas– that’s a little bigger than Greece and twice as large as Ireland. As a result, we have increased the total land and water that comes under our stewardship by more than half.
The protection of 3,500 square kilometres of Pacific marine waters through the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is not only a remarkable conservation action. It is also a demonstration of international leadership by Canada. For the first time anywhere in the world, an area has been protected that extends from a mountain summit to the deep ocean floor beyond the continental shelf.
And on the coast we have taken significant measures to protect against a spill.
We require trained experts with knowledge of the coast to accompany tanker captains on the bridge of the ship while they navigate to open waters.
We have expert pilots that patrol the waters around Vancouver to catch any pollution emanating from ships – and when we catch it we prosecute the offenders.
And we have introduced tough new fines for companies that break our environmental laws.
Canada has never had a major tanker spill off our coasts. If the unlikely ever happened our response would be swift and complete. My colleague Denis Lebel will be telling you more shortly about further steps we will take to ensure our marine safety system. But, let me be clear, polluters must pay for all costs related to an oil spill clean up.
While the current marine safety regime has served Canada well, more research will help us build a stronger system that can meet future needs.
Last month, we commissioned a pan-Canadian study to evaluate our country’s readiness to respond to spills from ships in our waters.
This Government takes its responsibility for safe and reliable marine transportation very seriously. We know the job is never done. Risk factors change. Scientific knowledge evolves. So we must be ready and willing to look at new evidence, and respond accordingly.
Our Government is committed to ongoing improvement of environmental protection and that’s what we’re here to show you.
Thank you very much.
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