Minister pitches Northern solutions to energy issues

Minister pitches Northern solutions to energy issues
NWT Industry Minister David Ramsay met with BC Premier Christy Clark at the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver last week, where he also networked with industry before heading to Alberta for more talks with their energy minister.Photo: GNWT.

When it comes to solving the problem of “stranded resources,” the government of the Northwest Territories wants to make sure southern jurisdictions aren’t forgetting to look North in their hunt for solutions.

The NWT’s Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment David Ramsay was in Alberta last week meeting with recently appointed Energy Minister Diana McQueen on potential opportunities for collaboration on energy issues, from oil and gas to electricity.

Aside from being the first formal meeting with McQueen in her new position, the talks brought up issues of shared challenges and possibilities for regional energy planning.

“Alberta has a similar problem that we have in that they have stranded resources, and are trying to get those resources to market,” Ramsay said.

“If pipeline projects continue to languish in other parts of North America, the possibility may exist to run oil north. That’s not out of the realm of possibilities. The other thing that Alberta’s very interested in is Tuktoyaktuk…and its viability as a port. So they’re interested and it’s something that we believe is in our best interest, to work with Alberta and find solutions to our issues.”

On the energy front, Ramsay said he wants to see the two jurisdictions, along with BC, Yukon and Alaska, come together to work out ways to benefit mutually on a regional basis.

“Obviously we have a lot of resources, so we just want to be part of the equation when people are talking about possible solutions,” Ramsay said. “Our premier’s gone on record and I’ve gone on record saying it’s in our best interest to keep our options open, and we’re watching closely what’s happening with pipeline projects to the south, especially Gateway, Keystone and Energy East, and also the Trans Mountain. They continue to run into hurdles, so we’ll see what happens.”

The two ministers also spoke about the potential for a transmission line intertie between the two jurisdictions to run power south, as well as regulatory support.

Following devolution’s effective date on Apr. 1, the GNWT will take jurisdictional responsibility for resource regulation in the territory and is looking for technical support from Alberta’s new energy regulator.

“We talked about the regulatory system in the Northwest Territories. We may be looking to the AER (Alberta Energy Regulator) to provide some technical help for us as we build that capacity back home – not just the AER, but there will be others that help us get where we need to go.”

Alberta, NWT working on renewed MOU

The GNWT department of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations (DAAIR) is currently working on establishing an updated comprehensive memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Alberta government, of which energy will be a component.

The most recent MOU expired last September. Under the agreement, the NWT and Alberta co-chairs meet every six to 12 months.

“The NWT and Alberta governments continue to collaborate in a number of important areas, including health, wildlife and forest fire management, transportation infrastructure, education and employment, and continue to have a very positive intergovernmental relationship,” DAAIR spokesperson Lindsey Oosenbrug-Trinh said in an email.

Industry ‘optimistic’ about devolution

While in the south, Ramsay along with Premier Bob McLeod also attended the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver last week, where the two joined officials from the federal government in presenting an afternoon informational session on devolution.

“It was a great opportunity for industry to ask those questions and get that assurance that, come Apr. 1, the system is going to be in place, it’s going to be predictable and fair, and it’s going to be a seamless transition,” Ramsay said, adding that the same message will be touted at the upcoming Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto this March.

The delegation was also able to meet with CEOs of companies interested in doing business in the NWT, all of whom Ramsay said seemed excited about Apr. 1.

“The one thing we have for sure is a resource base – minerals and oil and gas. So we need to get that investment into that territory, we need to open up some new mines, and we believe that we can do it and it can be a balance with protecting environmental interests and getting those jobs and opportunities for people,” he said.

“Our government is small and nimble and will be able to react. If there are issues that arise, we’ll be able to work with folks to iron things out and ensure we make the right decisions, so that wasn’t lost on any of the industry folks we met with either. I think there’s some genuine optimism about Apr. 1 and how things are going to go.”

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