The Honourable James Carr, Minister of Natural Resources Keynote address to the Ontario Natural Resources Forum: Our Resources, Our Future
Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto
April 6, 2016
Good afternoon, everyone.
First, I want to say it’s fitting that we’re meeting on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New First Credit Nation, because the history of our natural resources starts long before Canada was a nation.
I also want to say it’s humbling to be in the same room and to share a stage with two of the most important mentors of my life.
One is Paul Martin. If it had not been for Paul Martin’s encouragement, I am sure I would not be standing up at this podium today because he, more than anybody I know, embodies in his work and in his very DNA the nobility of public service. It was the lesson of the importance of public service that has motivated me and many others. And in the case of Paul Martin it’s selfless public service.
After a successful career in business and then in politics, he’s devoted the post-political portion of his rich, diverse and impeccable life to making the rest of us understand the fundamental importance of the partnership with Indigenous people.
My other mentor is Phil Fontaine. It was in 1985, on a canoe trip, that I first met Phil. This was a monumental moment for me, and we have developed a relationship that is rich in cultural diversity.
What Phil has taught me is a wisdom that crosses history and diversity and difference and runs to the very core of who we are as humans in our relationship to the land and the water. He understands better than most of us that the responsibilities that we carry are generational responsibilities. They don’t start now.
It was the generation before us that gave to us the land and the protection of the water. It is our responsibility this time to protect that relationship for the generations to come. It is that very insight that rounds us as humans. To Paul Martin and to Phil Fontaine I say, thank you for your mentorship and for your wisdom.
It’s also appropriate that I’m standing here in Toronto, because I am a passionate Winnipegger. Winnipeg to me is the centre of the world, so why is it that since I was elected I’ve spent eight days in Toronto? I think I know the answer to that question. It’s because Toronto and Ontario are vital to the future of natural resources in Canada and to the Canadian economy.
What I’m learning from Toronto is that you have an understanding of the entire country. It is that understanding of something beyond our geography, beyond our particular past, that embraces who we are as Canadians, that’s going to take us through difficult times. I’m going to get to that in a minute. This forum also is a chance for me to reflect a bit on those five months since I have been in this government.
It’s really a blink of an eye, but there’s so much to learn, so much to know and so much to do. The very fact that I am standing at this podium now with you as a guest of Ontario and of the Government of Ontario should say something else. And that is, it’s impossible to run a country like Canada if the federal government isn’t at the same table as the premiers and the provinces. After having not been at the same table, we are now, and we’re proud of it as Canadians.
It’s remarkable to look at the past number of years to assess how we have developed as a nation across these jurisdictions. Every Prime Minister since St. Laurent would call a meeting with the premiers to talk about great national issues of our time. They weren’t all constitutional. It wasn’t just assessing the number of pins and constitutional niceties to thread some kind of a subtle needle. It was about the very essence of what it means to build an economy and a nation.
We would talk about barriers to internal trade. We would talk about international trade. We would talk about pensions. We would talk about education. We would talk about national projects. But for too long the conversation was put on pause. The conversation is now in full play mode, and that is the only way we are going to move together as Canadians.
We know that we can’t paper over the challenges we face in resource industries. I’m a westerner. Those challenges have been well documented in the daily headlines: low commodity prices, dramatic changes in the demand for paper and other wood products, shrinking investments, job losses. These harsh realities have taken their toll — not just on our key resource sectors but on other industries that support them, the local economies that grow around them and the government revenues that flow from them.
In turn, hardworking men and women and their families bear the brunt, and some of them face uncertain futures. There is cause for optimism. Something transformational is happening globally and across North America and right here in Ontario. As Premier Wynne outlined yesterday, there is a willingness to think big and act responsibly, to invest in the infrastructure, innovation and skills training that will drive the low-carbon economy.
I’ve come here today to talk about our government’s priorities and goals for the resource sector. Economic prosperity and environmental protection is the same conversation. No longer can we talk about economic growth without environmental sustainability. You can try, but it won’t get us anywhere as a nation. There has to be a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples.
The Prime Minister has said that there is no more important relationship for this government than with Indigenous peoples. We take it seriously. And we also are investing in our political commitments that you have read about in the budget, and we can talk about that during the course of these few minutes we’ll spend together.
There also has to be greater collaboration among senior levels of government. Where do we start? I want to start with energy, because our country stands between reliance on fossil fuels and the renewable energy sources of tomorrow. We need both. It’s not either wind turbines or pipelines — it’s both. This economy is in transition. We have to prepare for generational shifts in the way we develop these resources.
That means we’re going to have to undertake major investments led by the private sector, stimulated and facilitated by government to make sure we are on the leading edge. I have confidence that Canada can be. Let me give a quick example. The Prime Minister has asked me to work with my American and Mexican colleagues on the continental integration of our energy sectors.
Those efforts started last November, when I met U.S. Secretary Moniz and Mexican Energy Secretary Joaquín Coldwell at energy talks in Paris. We’ve met and spoken a number of times since then, including a moment of true awakening when I invited the two of them to my home city of Winnipeg in the middle of the February freeze.
This was shocking. Secretary Moniz is from Massachusetts, so you could understand that he had some passing acquaintance with cold. But Secretary Joaquin…. The worst part was that Moniz is a Boston Bruins fan, and the Bruins were in town that night, and they walloped us 6 to 2. I took him to the game, so he wore his Boston Bruins scarf the entire time and still hasn’t stopped talking about it.
I want to add my voice to those of us in the room who were in mourning that there will be no Canadian teams in the national hockey league playoffs. Go Blue Jays Go. It must have worked because there we were in Winnipeg, signing a North American memorandum of understanding on climate change and energy collaboration.
It’s an aspirational agreement that focuses our three countries on the most pressing issues of the day: bringing cleaner renewable energy onto the electricity grid; accelerating innovation in clean energy technologies; encouraging energy savings through improved energy efficiencies; advancing the competitiveness of carbon capture, use and storage; increasing our resilience to climate change; and tackling methane and other emissions from oil and gas.
Through that memorandum and the working groups now flowing from it, we are pursuing a bold vision for North America. A vision that positions this continent as one of the world’s most dynamic and influential energy regions. A vision that strengthens our collective energy security. A vision that commits us to collaboration on environmental stewardship.
If the best way to predict the future is to create it, then we are well on the way. We saw that last month at the White House where Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama stood side by side in the Rose Garden to announce a joint statement on climate, energy and Arctic leadership.
I want to pause here for a minute, because we talked about relationships.
I had the pleasure of meeting with the Grand Chief before this luncheon today. We talked about the importance of trusting relationships that, as Prime Minister Martin said, don’t begin on Monday, and the deal is signed on Tuesday, and then say goodbye on Wednesday. These are relationships that are developed over time so that trust can develop in meaningful ways, not in ways that are motivated by some kind of instant gratification that might be in the interests of one side or another.
If you look at the past relationships between American presidents and Canadian prime ministers even in my own lifetime, just think of it. Just think of the relationship between John F. Kennedy and John Diefenbaker — not great. Think of the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien. They talked about it on the golf course, and then they did it.
To be absolutely in the spirit of non-partisanship, how about the relationships between Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan at the famous Shamrock Summit in Quebec City, where they sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” followed not very long afterwards by a treaty on acid rain? Alan Gottlieb, a former deputy minister of Foreign Affairs will tell you there is no relationship in Canada’s world more important than our relationship with the American president.
To see President Obama and Prime Minister talking about the same things and coming to agreement on continental and global issues that are so important to both our nations is important to us. We’ll build on it. I was in New York over the last two days speaking to the Bloomberg Conference and having meetings with investors, bankers and those interested in the energy sector in Canada.
They were very interested in our country, its political moment, maybe because of their own, and I could see that it was that relationship that was inspiring their interest. We have to be mindful of the importance that the messaging from the top conveys to all of us who are here to do a good job for our country.
That agreement commits Canada and the United States to unprecedented cooperation on many of the same files covered by our Winnipeg Memorandum and in areas particularly important to Ontario: enhancing the integration of our electricity grids, accelerating clean energy technology and aligning our energy efficiency standards.
This is what can be accomplished when we work together with common purpose and a clear vision. I saw this last month at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual conference. Everywhere I went on the convention floor, at roundtables and in meetings with my international counterparts, the message was clear: the mining world is looking to Canada for leadership.
The world is finding it. Our miners have earned a reputation for innovation, environmental stewardship, Indigenous engagement and corporate social responsibility. With Toronto as the financial heart of the global mining industry, Ontario is particularly well positioned to capitalize on this leadership role. You don’t have to look any further than the Ring of Fire.
It holds huge promise for local communities, and our government will work with the province, with Indigenous peoples and all potential partners to advance sustainable resource development in this region. I am pleased we have extended the 15% Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for another year. This is good news for junior mining companies seeking the venture capital they need to make the next great discovery.
Our government is equally seized with the pressing issues facing the forest sector here in Ontario and across the country. As I am sure most of you know, the President and the Prime Minister have directed our two countries’ top trade officials to explore all options for addressing the softwood lumber issue within 100 days. We are committed to solving trade issues and boosting our exports of diverse high-volume and high-value forest products.
We also know that the forest sector can speed Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The forest industry is fundamentally different from other natural resource sectors because it contributes to carbon mitigation in multiple ways, whether that’s through long-lived wood products, bio-products or sustainably managed forests. Investing in the forest sector means more environmental wins for Canada.
Our first federal budget reflects all of this. It demonstrates our faith in Canadians to lead the world in clean growth and to put Canada on the front lines to fight climate change. I had the pleasure of announcing some interim principles that will govern environmental reviews with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change at a press conference in Ottawa on January 27.
Nobody could remember the last time that a Minister of the Environment and a Minister of Natural Resources were on the same stage talking about the same thing with equal passion towards the desired result. That is the very nature and the essence of where in this government we want to take the country: sustainable economic development and sustainability of the environment.
It also reflects our belief that by investing in clean technology industries we can help them be more innovative, more competitive and more successful. Bear with me for a few numbers. A former Minister of Finance will understand that numbers matter.
More than $87 million to update the facilities that support research in forestry, mining and minerals, earth sciences and mapping, as well as innovation in energy technology.
Another $82.5 million for clean energy technologies and $62.5 million for recharging stations for electric cars and refuelling stations for vehicles powered by natural gas and hydrogen.
We are investing $128.8 million to improve energy efficiency and $81 million to support marine conservation, which is very important.
Billions of dollars for public transit, green public transit and infrastructure and other ways to advance the low-carbon economy fund to help provinces meet their climate change challenges.
These investments give substance to what we agreed to in Winnipeg, in Washington and at the COP21 climate talks in Paris last December, which was for many reasons a remarkable meeting.
Budget 2016 also built on our pledge as one of the 20 founding countries of Mission Innovation, an ambitious new partnership signed by 20 heads of state in Paris including the Americans, the French, the British, the Canadians, the Mexicans, the Chinese, the South Koreans and 12 other nations.
What that Mission Innovation document obliges us to do in all 20 of the signatory countries is to double our investment in clean energy technologies over a five-year period, to which we will hold each other accountable. We will show leadership in other ways: by restoring public confidence in the way major resource projects are assessed and reviewed; by renewing our nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples through meaningful consultation; and by basing regulatory decisions on science and evidence, with that evidence including Indigenous cultural background; and by ensuring that Aboriginal peoples are part of every conversation that matters as we move forward together.
Budget 2016 also includes $16.5 million to implement these new approaches as part of our transition process for major resource projects already under review. As I said at the beginning, the best way to predict the future is to create it. We’re creating it right here at this conference and what happens that flows from this conference in commitments between our governments and Indigenous peoples.
This can be an exciting time if we use this low point in the commodity cycle to find that sweet spot between resource development and environmental stewardship. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what Ontarians are doing. It’s our choice. It’s our chance to create the future we want, a future that will be better, brighter and more prosperous than we can imagine.
I am very happy as the Minister of Natural Resources for Canada to share these messages with you and to say we will provide all of the political energy, all of the leadership that we are able to muster to work with you in Ontario and with Indigenous peoples so that we can move our natural resources to market sustainably and in a way that can put Canada at the leading edge of green technology internationally. Thank you very much.
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