Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer was in Courtenay Thursday night, for a public town hall, sponsored by the two Comox Valley Conservative Associations.
Scheer granted Black Press Media a one-on-one Q&A afterwards, to address issues pertinent to British Columbians.
Q – What is your stance on the Trans Mountain Pipeline? Is this project still salvageable, and if not, what are the alternatives?
A-The Conservative Party supports pipelines in general, specifically because we know that the sector employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians. It supports the energy sector, it supports the manufacturing sector, the construction sector, so lots and lots of Canadian families in every province have jobs thanks to our energy sector. Having the ability to get it to markets, and getting oil and gas off of rails makes it safer. So pipelines are something that we support.
It’s not a question of whether it gets built; it’s how it gets built, and how much it costs taxpayers. Before Justin Trudeau was prime minister, pipelines got built by private sector companies, by investors in the free markets making decisions, with a regulatory process that worked … and when there were legitimate concerns raised, we addressed those concerns and ultimately the pipelines could get built. We now have a government that has added new regulatory burdens, has brought in a ban on new pipelines under Bill C69, and has chased away investor confidence.
We now have a situation where an American company is taking Canadian tax dollars to invest in pipelines in the United States, and that’s not a great position to be in. The Conservative government would bring back certainty to the approvals process and promote our sector so that private investment ultimately gets these projects built.
Q – Black Press Media chairman David Black has proposed a bitumen refinery in Kitimat. Is this a feasible alternative to supporting the exporting of dilbit for refining?
A – At the end of the day, if we have a regulatory framework that is predictable, reasonable, and doesn’t have moving goalposts… then those decisions can be made by the market. And if investors have clarity and confidence and they know that they can build something here in Canada, then they should be able to do that. Right now what’s chasing away a lot of investor confidence is the rules keep changing, we have a government that does not support the energy sector at all – in fact Justin Trudeau wants to phase it out. So if there is a business case for building that type of [refinery] then I would say that the role of government is to establish predictability and a straightforward approval process, and then leave it to business leaders to decide whether or not there is a business case for it. Sometimes in Canada there is not a business case, because of government rules, and government regulations, and that’s where the government can play a role – in reducing those regulatory burdens and unnecessary duplications.
Q – Regarding Canada’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, from an economic standpoint: A lot of people talk about weaning off our dependency on fossil fuels. What is the reality in that regard?
A – The reality is we are going to be using petroleum products for a long time to come, and Canada should be proud of the role that it can play in providing the world with clean and ethical energy. We have oil extracted in Canada at the highest environmental standards, highest labour standards around the world. We are a country that has the rule of law and equality for men and women, and right now we are purchasing, as a country, oil and gas from countries with abysmal human rights records, with no environmental concerns. So let’s be a world leader in exporting the energy that we do have. As innovations come along, and technical advances come along, there may be alternatives to oil and gas. That’s natural and it’s a natural evolution in human society… but we shouldn’t have a government punishing our sector and taking deliberate steps to suppress our energy sector. That is not what Canadians want. They want to see a government that is proud to promote it and also recognize the advancements within the oil and gas sector in Canada. The operations in Fort McMurray today are much, much cleaner than they were 40 years ago, much less intrusive to the environment, so let’s be proud of that. There are places where oil and gas are taken out of the ground around the world that don’t have any of those sensitivities, whereas we do. We should be proud of that and we should be capitalizing on that.
Q – Let’s discuss the opioid crisis. All indications are this will not be resolved by 2019, and in all likelihood will be worse by then. How will you approach this issue?
A – With two prongs: one, with compassion for the individual user… we need to recognize that there is a human component here. And then with very, very aggressive policies to go after the traffickers… I don’t believe there is enough attention paid to that… We need to recognize that the system has to help people with their addictions, to get into recovery [more quickly], and go after the traffickers; give our law enforcement [agencies] better tools.
When [someone] gets told it’s a six- to eight-month waiting time to get the help they need, well, their resolve might not last six or eight hours. It’s important that when somebody shows that initiative to get off of drugs, that the system can accommodate them right away, because in six or eight months they might be back into a very negative cycle. So more resources on recovery for individuals, and more tools for law enforcement to go after the traffickers. [With] that, I believe, we will see improvements, in a meaningful way.
Q – What is your view on open pen salmon farming?
A – I would make sure that our decisions are based on the most up-to-date science that we possibly have, and part of the reason I am out here is to do some consultations, to hear from people on both sides of this issue. Obviously British Columbia is blessed with a tremendous bounty of salmon, and fishing is a cultural part of society here, but also is a huge economic factor as well. We don’t want to risk that…
I want to do the proper consultations so that when we come out with the framework, we can present it to Canadians and people will know that we have done the homework on the back end. So I will have more to say on that after future visits but right now we are doing a lot of consultations to make sure that decisions are based on actual evidence and actual science.”