The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, delivers Keynote Speech to the Canadian Bar Association’s Environmental, Energy and Resources Law Summit.
June 1, 2018
Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. I was struck by the theme you have chosen for this Summit: The Intersection of Energy and the Environment, because it speaks directly to the challenges — and opportunities — before us, as Canadians, as citizens of the world.
We are in the midst of something that has only happened a few times in human history: a fundamental shift in the types of energy that power our societies. Compelled by climate change, driven by innovation, this transition is still finding its way, still developing the rules that will guide it. All of which points to the need for clarity, the importance of the rule of law and the value of your expertise.
When we came to office, we started from a very simple premise: that this is going to be the century of clean growth. That the economy and the environment must go hand in hand.
We also knew that Canadians were way ahead of their politicians when it came to climate change. That they wanted Canada to come to grips with how our country develops, moves and uses its energy. Not in an ad hoc way, but through a comprehensive exploration of the issues and a broad discussion about where we want to go as a country.
That was the inspiration behind Generation Energy — the largest national conversation about energy in our country’s history. We invited Canadians to imagine their energy future. How do they expect the world to look when their kids and grandkids are grown? What should we be doing now to get us there?
And Canadians responded in an unprecedented way, with numbers that are eye-opening: more than 380,000 participants, in person and online; 31,000 hits on social media; 63 engagement sessions, in every part of the country; and more than 650 people at the Generation Forum, right here in Winnipeg.
That Forum brought together, often for the first time, energy producers and suppliers, international experts, Indigenous leaders, environmental organizations, consumers and all levels of government. There wasn’t always a lot of common ground. Strong opinions were held and expressed, making for some stimulating — and often difficult — discussions.
At the end of the two days, I asked people in the audience to put up their hands if they had experienced any moment of discomfort during the Forum. Every single hand in the room went up. I said that was a good thing because if we’re all in our comfort zone, we aren’t learning and we aren’t challenging ourselves with new ideas or different perspectives.
And as people talked — and, more importantly, as they listened to one another — it was remarkable to witness an understanding of different points of view. What emerged from Generation Energy was an inspiring vision of how Canadians see their energy future.
They told us that they want a thriving, low-carbon economy. They want us to be a leader in clean technology. They want an affordable and reliable energy system, one that provides equal opportunities to Canadians without harming the environment. They want Indigenous peoples to be part of the decision-making — and to benefit from the opportunities.
Canadians are looking for smart cities, with integrated energy systems, increased energy efficiency and low-carbon transportation. And they want rural and remote communities to have better options than diesel for generating electricity or heating their homes.
Canadians told us that we need regulatory reform, including more transparency and communication with the public, if we’re going to restore public confidence.
They told us that they want us to take the politics out of decision-making and let science, facts and evidence carry the day.
From Generation Energy it was also clear that Canadians understand that while a low-carbon economy is the goal, we’re not there yet. We need to prepare for the future, but we also have to live in the present — by providing energy they can count on when they flick on a light or fill up their cars.
Oil and gas also feed the petrochemical industry, creating thousands of jobs and producing everything from plastics to perfume. All of which means that we must continue to support our oil and gas resources even as we develop alternative energy, including solar, wind and tidal.
So while the Generation Energy discussions were often uncomfortable, they were also engaging, invigorating and inspiring. And years from now, Canadians may well look back on Generation Energy as a turning point that marked our emergence as a clean-growth leader.
And it didn’t end with the Forum. To keep the momentum going, I created a 14-member Generation Energy Council to recommend how best to move forward. The Council members come from diverse energy backgrounds and from every region of the country. I’m grateful to these thought-leaders for taking on this challenging task.
The Council is due to report shortly and will help us define Canada`s energy future, both here at home and through our international engagements, including at the G20 and Mission Innovation — a group of 22 countries and the European Union, all dedicated to accelerating the clean energy revolution.
Even before Generation Energy, our government had planted Canada’s flag firmly in the clean growth economy in many ways: by ratifying the Paris Accord; putting a price on carbon; making generational investments in clean technology and green infrastructure, including a national network of re-charging and re-fueling stations; accelerating the phase-out of coal; creating a low-carbon fuel standard; regulating methane emissions; making unprecedented investments in foundational science; and, together with our provincial and territorial colleagues, developing a national plan for combating climate change.
We are also using this time of transition to better position Canada for the future, building the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and using the revenues to invest in clean forms of energy.
Just this week, our government took an important step by purchasing the Trans Mountain Pipeline to ensure that its expansion goes ahead. The majority of Canadians support this project. They understand that we are in the midst of a transition to a clean growth economy, but that to succeed, we need to make big decisions that will get us from where we are to where we want to go. Supporting this project is one of those big decisions.
Our government has also fundamentally redefined our relationship with Indigenous peoples. Just a few months ago, we began an historic process to recognize and implement inherent rights. This new approach will help advance reconciliation and renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples based on respect and partnership.
Bill C-69 is an early expression of this new approach. It commits to early and ongoing engagement, recognizes Indigenous rights upfront and confirms the government’s duty to consult. It also recognizes Indigenous knowledge and builds capacity — with enhanced funding — for Indigenous participation.
In introducing Bill C-69, we also committed to restoring trust in impact assessments, improving transparency and enhancing public participation throughout the process. This new approach will help to diversify Canada’s energy markets, expand our energy infrastructure and drive economic growth.
It also confirms our belief that Canada works best when we work together. When we listen to one another. Open up the process. And invite Canadians to participate in shaping their future.
I began by saying that we are in the midst of a fundamental transition, from traditional forms of energy to new ones. Capturing the benefits of that transition — and shaping its course — requires new thinking, new tools and a new perspective.
In those efforts, you have a critical role to play in helping Canadians navigate through changing times and, by bringing the rigour of the law to bear, in contributing to the prosperity we all seek while preserving the environment we all cherish.
I look forward to working with all of you as we build that future together.
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