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Financial Post (Canada): Tories reassure oilpatch on green agenda

Published: Feb 10, 2007

CALGARY – Oil industry leaders were reassured yesterday by federal cabinet ministers that Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t want to harm the economy as he gets tough with big emitters of greenhouse gases.

A handful of industry chief executives met behind closed doors with Environment Minister John Baird, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn to discuss the Conservative government’s new green agenda.

“As [Mr. Baird] reiterated, the Prime Minister wants to do this in a way that doesn’t harm the economy, and that recognizes that capital stock and technology take some time to bring into place,” said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The two-hour meeting was part of the government’s consultations ahead of firming up policy to deal with Canada’s growing greenhouse gas emissions. The three ministers held a series of private meetings in Calgary, where there’s rising anxiety about how aggressive the government will get to boost its environmental credentials at the expense of oilpatch growth plans, particularly in the oilsands.

Oil executives refused to talk about the tone and content of the meeting, referring all questions to the lobby group.

A day earlier, John Dielwart, president of ARC Energy Trust, said there is a concern in the industry about getting singled out, but the reality is that measures can only extend so far without seriously damaging Canada’s economy.

“I don’t think any party wants to be seen as overly passive on the environment and some may see the need to be really aggressive. That’s just a political reality, but what I would say is politicians can promise all they want in an election but then when it comes time to the realities of what can feasibly be done versus what you’d like to do, there is quite often a disconnect.”

Also in attendance were Tim Hearn, CEO of Imperial Oil Ltd.; Clive Mather, CEO of Shell Canada Ltd.; Randy Eresman, CEO of En Cana Corp.; Hal Kvisley, CEO of Trans Canada Corp.; Steve Snyder, CEO of Trans Alta Corp.

Mr. Baird also reassured the group that the government would move forward with intensity- based targets for an initial period, rather than a hard cap on emissions.

The plan is expected to be finalized in the early part of the year, Mr. Alvarez said.

“The one thing we have learned is until you see the details written down, and you can apply it on a project by project, we are going to be careful and we are going to be extremely cautious .”

Mr. Baird described the meeting as “a good exchange of ideas. We learned more about some of the challenges, some of the opportunities.”

Calgary Bureau [email protected]

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