Remarks by the Honourable Minister Jonathan WIlkinson, Minister of Natural Resources


Thank you very much Seamus [O’Regan] for that kind introduction.

As you all know Seamus and his Newfoundland and Labrador MP colleague, Joanne Thompson with us today, are tireless—as a former Fisheries Minister I can say truly tireless—in their advocacy for this province and for this country.

Seamus, as he noted, was my predecessor in this role as Minister of Natural Resources. And a lot of the work that I am doing now builds on the hard work that he performed when he was in this role.

For example Seamus unveiled Canada’s Critical Minerals List last year and recently I launched a discussion paper to help finalize the strategy for this fall.

He also launched Canada’s Hydrogen Strategy, and I am now working to get projects off the ground, here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and across the country.

So thank you Seamus for the introduction, for everything you do for the people of this Province and this country, and for all that you accomplished when you were Minister of Natural Resources.

It is a pleasure to be back in Newfoundland and Labrador. I was privileged to visit here many, many times when I served as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. I spent a lot of time in this beautiful province working with fish harvesters, small business people, local MP’s and of course with the provincial government.

As you will know very well being, Minister of DFO is not always a simple job. Often very difficult issues arise for which there are no simple solutions, where every answer is a challenging one. But it was during these sometimes difficult conversations that I learned just how thoughtful and constructive Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are. Folks here listen, they really listen, and they engage in ways that search for solutions that work for everyone.

People here are not entirely different from the province where I grew up, Saskatchewan. The people of Saskatchewan are down-to-earth and community-oriented. They simply want to live their lives and be assured that their children will have a sustainable future, with a standard of living that is similar to the one we grew up with.

The vast majority of people that I met here are pragmatic; willing to face challenges and develop solutions that will ensure that bright future for their family, for their province and for their country.

I am also quite a pragmatic person or at least I’d like to think I am. And perhaps that is why I have always felt so at-home when I am here.

I think this a pragmatic approach served me well during my tine with Fisheries and Oceans. And I would tell you that this kind of approach to issues relating to energy and climate change serves me equally well in my role as Minister of Natural Resources.

This week federal, provincial and territorial Energy and Mines ministers are meeting here, and we will be focused on two broad categories of issues. The first is the brutal and unjustified invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine, and the implications of this conflict on the critical issues of energy security and climate change.

And secondly, Canada’s economic future in the context of climate change. Namely how we can work collaboratively to ensure that all regions of this country are able to secure the jobs, economic opportunities and prosperity that from the transition to a lower carbon future—if we act thoughtfully and we act early.

Let me just begin with a few comments about Ukraine. As many will know, the effects of the war in Ukraine are being felt around the world, certainly well beyond Europe itself.

As a result of this invasion, issues relating to energy affordability and security are now very much at the forefront of international affairs. This conflict has clearly shown us the vulnerability of global energy markets and has also impacted supply chains for many other key commodities and industries.

Significant volatility in energy markets has resulted in elevated and unstable pricing. The energy security implications for Europe in particular are potentially devastating, a point that has been driven home to me in the many trips that I have taken over the past few months to visit with my European colleagues.

This is not just a matter of inconvenience, or even a crunch with respect to affordability and pocketbooks. This is a fundamental threat to their ability to provide the basics for their citizens, from heat for their homes, to fuel to transport food and goods and power to sustain their industries, their jobs and their economies.

Not surprisingly Western European countries are working vigorously to secure predictable energy supplies in the context of an increasingly belligerent Russia.

In the short-term Europe is focused on replacing Russian oil and gas with imports from other countries, while concurrently aggressively accelerating a transition towards renewables and hydrogen. As the President of the European Commission stated recently and I’m quoting: “it is our switch to renewables and hydrogen that will make us truly independent”.

I want to underscore that Europe’s efforts to transition to non-Russian sources of oil and gas, reduce consumption and shift to renewables and hydrogen is not sequential; they are looking to do all of these things concurrently. And as part of their efforts to do this, they have asked for help from their friends. And Canada has responded.

We were the first country to ban imports of Russian oil and petroleum products. Subsequently we joined the United States and Brazil in committing to increase our oil and gas exports in the short-term to the extent possible and within the framework of our climate commitments, to help to stabilize international energy markets and make available additional supply of non-Russian oil.

We also announced a plan to increase oil and gas output by up to 300,000 barrels per day by the end of the year, by expanding production and optimizing pipelines essentially bringing forward production that had already been planned to an earlier time.

Europe has also asked us to look at how Canada could potentially assist with liquid natural gas and hydrogen, which would come from Eastern Canada. Which is why we recently established active working groups with both Germany and the European Union. We are also assessing our ability to enhance exports of other strategic commodities that have typically been provided by Russia and Belarus, such as potash and uranium.

Given this work, there are some who have raised questions about how tackling energy security and addressing climate change can be reconciled. Some would suggest that, given the urgency of the energy security issues, we should essentially set aside our concerns and actions with respect to climate change. Concurrently there are others who would suggest that any move to increase the production of fossil fuels, even if to aid our European friends at a time of crisis, should not be pursued given the existential threat that is climate change.

I would suggest that neither of these positions is thoughtful or tenable. Of course we need to respond to calls for assistance from our European friends. And of course we need to ensure that we stay focused on aggressively addressing climate change.

Canada is presently assessing and discussing what more we can do to help our European partners, but we are doing so in a manner that minimizes and accounts for any additional domestic emissions, ensuring that all our efforts fit within the context of our climate commitments.

As a nation, as a people, surely we are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. We can help our European friends in the short-term and we can achieve our ambitious and vital climate goals.

I’d also like to just say a few things about the energy transition. I find that when I speak on this subject, there is often a distinct lack of clarity about what this transition is fundamentally about and the role of hydrocarbon fuels in this process.

In virtually all forecasts, global demand for oil is projected to be relatively flat through 2030, perhaps even to the mid 2030s, before we start to see a decline in the consumption of oil associated largely with the deployment of zero emission vehicles and other technologies.

And while the volume of oil consumed globally will eventually decline significantly, even in the International Energy Agency’s 1.5 degrees scenario we will still be using 25 million barrels of oil, or about a quarter of what we use today, in 2050. What will change is that post-2050 this oil will be used in non-combustion applications such as petrochemicals, asphalt, lubricants, solvents and waxes.

Similarly for natural gas. The IEA forecasts the demand for natural gas in 2050 will be half of what it is today, but again for use in non-combustion applications such as hydrogen production.

At the end of the day, the cause of climate change is not fossil fuels themselves. It is the carbon emissions associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Beyond the need for very significant increases in the use of renewables and other forms of non-emitting energy, the reality is there will continue to be a role for some level of hydrocarbon fuels after 2050.

And during the coming 30-year period of transition, during which some volume of hydrocarbon combustion will continue to exist, and even beyond 2050 when we have largely eliminated hydrocarbon combustion, countries that focus on producing hydrocarbons with ultra-low production emissions are likely to be the last producers standing—which underscores the economic importance of taking strong action to reduce emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector.

Bay du Nord is a good example of this. This project has the potential to produce 300 million barrels of oil, generate 3.5 billion dollars in government revenues and create thousands of jobs. But beyond the economic potential, Bay du Nord will produce the lowest carbon oil in this country and some of the lowest carbon barrels of oil in the world. And this project has committed to, and is required to be, net zero by 2050. This is exactly the kind of project that we should be looking to ensure moves forward.

Finally a few words about how Canada can and will seize the economic opportunities of an energy transition to this lower carbon future, to ensure a prosperous future for folks in every province.

Even before the events of the past few months, the global economy was changing, and changing rapidly. That has accelerated recently and it will continue to do so. Around the world financial markets are increasingly pricing climate risk into investment decisions. Smart money is flowing away from assets that are not compatible with the transition.

And just as any successful business must be capable of interpreting and reacting to changes in the business environment, countries must also be capable of thoughtful response and action to sustain and enhance their level of prosperity. It is in this context that Canada can choose to be a leader in the global economic shift or we can simply let it happen to us, with all the intended consequences of being a late mover.

Certainly as the world moves towards a much lower carbon economy a key question on which we need to focus is: How do we build on Newfoundland and Labrador’s comparative advantages in a manner that will create economic opportunity and jobs?

My job, as I see it, is to work with all of you to determine how to best utilize the abundance of resources, technologies and experience that exists in this province, and pursue those opportunities that will drive significant job creation and economic growth.

To remain competitive internationally and drive economic growth over the long-term, we have to think about economic opportunities both sectorally and regionally.

Opportunities from a sectoral perspective are going to come from new products that will be enabled through the energy transition, such as electric cars, battery technology, critical minerals, hydrogen, and a range of other clean technologies.

There are also going to be opportunities created by increased demand for traditional goods that are produced in an ultra-low carbon manner, such as steel and aluminium.

Regionally, each province has a relatively unique mix of its own natural resources. So the economic opportunities available to them, and therefore the approaches to a clean energy transition, will be different across this country.

What we need is a plan that is based on comparative advantage—one that aligns the efforts and resources of all levels of government as well as the private sector, labour and indigenous peoples.

And that is why we recently launched what we have called The Regional Energy and Resource Tables. These tables will take place in a dedicated manner in every province and territory in this country.

The goal of these tables, which are being launched in partnership between the federal and provincial territorial governments, will be to collectively identify the most significant three or four opportunities in each province and territory. Not the 30 or so things that we could talk about, but rather the three or four things that really could move the needle from an economic perspective.

Over the coming months we will seek to establish joint goals, align resources and identify additional resources that may be required, and  better align regulatory and permitting processes on a go-forward basis. In doing so, we will be seeking engagement with indigenous leadership and with key stakeholders including industry and labour.

Essentially we’re looking to develop collaborative place-based and resource-based economic strategies that reflect the regional economic diversity of Canada. Such strategies will enable us to better articulate what the capital, labour and skills requirements of the future areas of growth will be, and they will give Canadians greater clarity as to what the energy transition actually looks like.

In essence it will enable better discussion of what is often called the “Just Transition” by giving us a better collective understanding of, and plan for, the labour requirements of the low-carbon future.

At times there have been some who have underlined significant concerns regarding the potential for displacement of workers in communities, as oil and gas begins to play a less significant role as a driver of economic growth in this country.

But if we step back and think about the enormous opportunities that are available to Canada in a low carbon future; such as critical minerals and associated processing throughout the entire value chain—a generational economic opportunity for this country—as well as hydrogen, biofuels, CCUS, nuclear technology and other clean technologies, I will tell you that my greatest fear is not that we will have excess labour, but rather the reverse. That we will potentially have a shortage of labour to address all of the opportunities that Canada can pursue.

These tables will be launched in three separate tranches. I’m pleased to say that Newfoundland and Labrador is part of the first phase. We are working closely with the provincial government, and we will be looking to work closely with you, to pursue those key opportunities that make the most sense for this province.

For example this province has an abundance of wind, hydro and tidal energy. In fact this is the prime location for harnessing the potential of renewable energy. And we are seeing an enormous number of projects coming forward, particularly with respect to the idea of wind-to-hydrogen as a means to supply hydrogen to Germany and the European Union. And help them move more quickly through the transition and away from Russian supply.

Certainly, critical minerals is another area where there are enormous opportunities in this province. And this is a region that is still relatively under-explored compared to other mineral resource jurisdictions. So again, there are real opportunities not just in the extraction, but in the processing and potential product manufacturing of these minerals.

This is an area where we clearly need to focus. In fact, I’m not sure that folks fully appreciate the fact that there is no energy transition without critical minerals. There are no batteries, there are no electric cars, there are no wind turbines and there are no solar panels.

Developing these resources now is urgently required, both for environmental and for strategic reasons. In this context, a critical mineral intensive transition to clean energy represents, as I said before, a generational economic opportunity.

It is something that we have focused on in the most recent budget, when we allocated four billion dollars to support the Critical Minerals Strategy. I can tell you it is not often when you have a strategy that is not yet complete, that gets fully funded by the Minister of Finance, I think it reflects our understanding that Canada has a real opportunity here, but an opportunity that we need to seize and pursue very soon.

We recently released the discussion paper on critical minerals to inform the finalization of the strategy. I certainly would encourage all of you with an interest in this area to have your say over the next couple of months.

Just to close, it is clear that the global economy is changing, largely because the science of climate change tells us that it must change.

And as we move through the energy transition, Canada will remain an economy in which natural resources continue to make an indispensable contribution to the national economy.

What we need at this moment in history is a thoughtful and collaborative and ambitious economic strategy that will create wealth in every region of this country, while ensuring we achieve our ambitious climate and nature goals.

I am committed to working with all of you to build this more sustainable and prosperous future and I look forward to advancing these priorities with my provincial and territorial energy and mines colleagues over the next few days.

I would say that there has been no better partner in Canada than the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Furey and Minister Parsons. And I certainly look forward to advancing these conversations in a very significant way.

So again, my thanks to Minister O’Regan for the kind introduction and to the St. John’s Board of Trade for inviting me to speak here today.

Thank you. 


Natural Resources Canada
Media Relations


Keean Nembhard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources


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