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Poilievre's energy plan: carrots not sticks

'First Nations must be the principal beneficiaries of the resource development' -- Pierre Poilievre
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre addressed the AME Roundup conference Monday. | Nelson Bennett

A Conservative government would use carrots (tax incentives) not sticks (a tax on emissions) to reduce Canada's greenhouse gases, devolve more resource revenue to First Nations, and eliminate the “gatekeepers” that stymie industries like mining and oil and gas, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Monday.

At a speech at the Association of Mineral Exploration (AME) Roundup conference, Poilievre reiterated his pledge to scrap two key Trudeau government policies, if the Conservatives were to form government: the federal carbon tax and Bill C-69, which created Canada's new environmental law, the Impact Assessment Act.

And at a media scrum after the speech, Poilievre answered questions on how a Conservative government would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to address climate change without putting a price on GHG emissions.

“They (the NDP and Liberals) believe the way to fight climate change is to increase the cost of traditional energies like oil and gas that Canadians need to power their cars and heat their homes,” Poilievre said. “I believe the answer is to lower the cost of carbon-free alternatives, by speeding up approvals for electric dams, for car battery mineral production and carbon capture and storage and nuclear (power).”

Carbon capture is especially important for lowering the emissions intensity of the Canadian oil and gas sector.

But without a price on carbon of at least $60 per tonne, there is no incentive for oil and gas companies to invest in carbon capture, which is why the U.S., which doesn’t have a federal carbon tax, has adopted tax incentives for both carbon capture and storage (CCS) and small modular reactors.

The 45Q tax credit for CCS in the U.S. was recently boosted from US$50 per tonne to US$85 per tonne under the Inflation Reduction Act, which also has very attractive production credits for small modular reactor development.

Asked if a Conservative government would adopt similar tax incentives for CCS and SMRs, Poilievre confirmed it would.

“I’ll have specific measures to do that when the time is right,” he said. “But what we say, very clearly, is that we need technology rather than taxes in order to fight climate change, and that includes carbon capture, nuclear or hydro dams.

“I will unleash the production of more clean, green carbon-free energy by removing gatekeepers, cutting red tape, and incentivizing through financial instruments.”

Whether it is potential lithium mines in Quebec or LNG projects in B.C. or Atlantic Canada, Poilievre suggested opportunities for resource and energy development have been squandered under the Trudeau government.

It was, in fact, the Trudeau government that approved the $40 billion LNG Canada project in B.C.

But Poilievre suggested there could have been even more projects being built by now to match the six LNG export terminals that have been built in the U.S.

One of the challenges with building an LNG facility in Atlantic Canada or Quebec is that it is assumed a natural gas pipeline would need to be built across several provinces to pipe natural gas from Western Canada. Poilievre said it’s not necessarily true that an East Coast LNG plant would need Western Canadian gas.

“There is natural gas in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “So you wouldn’t necessarily need a Western pipeline to deliver it, although I would support a pipeline like that too.”

As for mining, Poilievre said: “According to Trudeau’s own government, it takes up to 25 years to get a mine approved in Canada. If you’re an investor, where are you going to invest?

"The already risky game of searching around for minerals that may or may not be beneath the ground -- a risky proposition from the outset -- why would you add the risk that you might wait around 25 years for a 'maybe' or a 'no,' when you can go to other countries where you can get an answer within 18 months?"

His solution for promoting mining activities is the same for promoting development of LNG: scrap the Impact Assessment Act.

In the past, some major resource projects have been held up due to opposition and legal challenges from First Nations. That has started to change, however, with more and more First Nations supporting resource development and even seeking equity positions in projects, like the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines.

Poilievre said a Conservative government would ensure First Nations benefit more from resource development.

“First Nations must be the principal beneficiaries of the resource development that happens on their lands," he said. "That’s why my caucus has been consulting with leading First Nations minds on how we can reform the tax system to ensure that local First Nations communities keep more of the revenues that are generated on their lands and that less of those revenues make their way to Ottawa.”

Earlier in the day, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson warned that countries that don’t adapt their economies to a world in transition – one that addresses climate change through decarbonisation – could get left behind in the new low-carbon economy that is evolving.

“Around the world, businesses big and small, labour organizations and governments are in a race to reduce carbon emissions, and seize extraordinary opportunities, and certainly to avoid the disruptive impacts of climate change,” Wilkinson said. “Global markets are driving this change with their investment decisions. Smartest money looking for long-term gains is flowing away from assets that will under-perform in a low-carbon world.

“The future of Canadians depends on us making the right choices to make sure that Canada will thrive in a low-carbon world.”

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