An Interview with Natural Resources Minister, the Honourable Jim Carr

Jim Carr has an impressively diverse background including time as an oboist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (in his teens), Executive Director of the Manitoba Arts Council, journalist, MLA in the Manitoba Legislature, community leader and President of the Business Council of Manitoba. But it is his new job as Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre and Minister of Natural Resources that he says has him most excited. I had the opportunity to sit down with Minister Carr and discuss his first few months on the job, his mandate, and his thoughts on important energy issues facing Canada. Below is a transcript of that interview.

The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources (right) and Timothy M. Egan, President and CEO, Canadian Gas Association (left).

The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources (right) and Timothy M. Egan, President and CEO, Canadian Gas Association (left).

Egan: You have held the role of Minister of Natural Resources now for about four months. How are you finding it so far?

Minister Carr: It is exhilarating, intense, satisfying, overwhelming in its complexity, breadth and depth, and I feel privileged to be here. Energy and natural resources are at the convergence of some of the most important issues facing our country – indigenous engagement, economic growth, environmental sustainability, – and all at a time when commodity prices are low and people are hurting with significant job losses particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We have fiscal instruments to help and some have been announced, but we have also been busy positioning Canada for the medium and longer-term. We signed on to Mission Innovation in Paris at COP21 that sees us doubling our investments in R&D. I also had the pleasure of recently hosting in Winnipeg a joint meeting with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell. At this meeting we signed another Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate further cooperation on innovation and a number of other areas important to all three countries.

“An MOU between Canada, Mexico and the United States was recently signed to facilitate further cooperation on innovation and a number of other areas important to all three countries.”

“An MOU between Canada, Mexico and the United States was recently signed to facilitate further cooperation on innovation and a number of other areas important to all three countries.”

Egan: You talked about commodity prices, what do you think the prospects are for Canada’s LNG export projects, given low global natural gas prices.

Minister Carr: It is a tough moment. There is an abundant global supply of natural gas and prices are low. Investors are understandably looking very carefully at the short term, but we are confident in the medium and long-term that Canada’s export projects will be competitive. Now, we did get export licenses from the Americans for Pieridae Energy Ltd. and Bear Head LNG and that is great news. It is a significant breakthrough that will yield jobs in Atlantic Canada and it is a great signal. We are very happy to have been able to facilitate those.

“We need to get natural gas to their markets.”

Egan: Is your sense from the International Community that, markets aside, they want Canadian natural gas as part of the mix?

Minister Carr: Yes, that is what I’m hearing and I believe they do. And we need to get natural gas to their markets. This is why we are working with all stakeholders – industry leaders, environmentalists, and Indigenous leaders. In fact, we recently held three roundtables bringing together a range of stakeholders to understand all perspectives in order to ensure we go about developing and getting our energy to market in the right way.

Egan: Is your sense from your conversations with Indigenous leaders that there is a willingness to move projects forward in the right circumstances?

“The Prime Minister has said that there is no relationship more important than our relationship with First Nations and that view stretches across our government.”

“The Prime Minister has said that there is no relationship more important than our relationship with First Nations and that view stretches across our government.”

Minister Carr: There are as many points of view as there are communities. But if you are asking me to generalize on those values that are important to Indigenous communities it is respect for the natural environment, for the water and the air, and it is jobs and opportunity for young people. We all have a lot to learn about both of those things in the context of those communities. The Prime Minister has said that there is no relationship more important than our relationship with First Nations and that view stretches across our government. In fact, it was at the heart of ministerial mandate letters. The Prime Minister also says that it is the principal responsibility of the Government of Canada to move our natural resources to market sustainably. What does sustainably mean? That means with an eye on environmental consequences which is why upstream GHG emissions and meaningful consultation with indigenous communities are now going to be a part of the principles to be assessed when we look at proposed energy projects. I am very optimistic that this is the appropriate way forward. As you know we have elongated the process with both the Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects to do further consultations. We will be taking lessons learned to make important permanent changes to environmental assessments in Canada and that is when we will want to have very serious conversations with industry leaders and association leaders on what works and what doesn’t. My hope is that we can make this process more credible and that we can marginalize the extremes – those who don’t want anything built anywhere anytime for any reasons and those who don’t want any regulation and just want to build. There are a lot of people in between those perspectives with whom we can have a serious conversation. And that’s why we are here.

Egan: You mentioned the conversations you had with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell. How did natural gas factor in to those conversations?

Minister Carr: Natural gas is important to both of those countries. In fact, while we were in Houston, the Americans sent a ship load of LNG to Brazil. There is no question that natural gas is considered to be a major future source of energy for the world.

Egan: Was innovation part of the conversation with Secretary Moniz and Secretary Coldwell?

Minister Carr: Yes, we have established six working groups on a variety of topics, innovation being key to those. Over the coming months, this conversation will certainly continue in a variety of forums. The Prime Minister met with President Obama March 10, there is a summit of North American leaders planned for later in the year, and there is a clean energy ministerial meeting in San Francisco in early June. These are all opportunities to assess what we have done so far on innovation.

Egan: What advice would you recommend to the Canadian natural gas industry?

Minister Carr: Align our combined objectives to help Canada as a respected, credible source of clean energy for the world. That is precisely what the government’s objective is and we want to make sure that Canada continues its leadership internationally as an energy producer. Our government knows how important natural gas is and collectively we have to sort out our regulatory process and our capacity to confirm consensus and community support.

“There is no question that natural gas is considered to be a major future source of energy for the world.”

Egan: Any last words for us?

Minister Carr: We need to stay talking all the time. This is all about finding common ground and to the extent to which we find it, is the extent to which we will achieve our common objective which is to get our energy to market with community support. And please continue to talk to me about how the industry is seeing the Canadian government as we work through these issues and principles.

“Please continue to talk to me about how the industry is seeing the Canadian government as we work through these issues and principles.”

“Please continue to talk to me about how the industry is seeing the Canadian government as we work through these issues and principles.”