'He came here to listen': Alberta's energy minister meets with Minister Seamus O'Regan
CALGARY – After being named to the federal cabinet earlier this week, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan is in Calgary on Friday, meeting with Alberta's energy minister.
O'Regan, the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl, was named to Trudeau's cabinet on Wednesday and his first order of business was a meeting in Alberta.
Experts say the relationship between Alberta and Ottawa has been quite strained, especially since the Liberals were completely shutout in the Prairies in last month's federal election.
Sonya Savage, Alberta's energy minister, spoke to reporters after the discussion on Friday and says it was a very positive experience.
"It was a very productive initial meeting with Minister O'Regan," Savage said. "I was able to talk about the challenges facing the oil and gas sector here in Alberta and the very real concerns that Albertans have."
She says O'Regan listened to her concerns and she was "very encouraged by his tone."
"I think he understood the very real frustrations Alberta has had with the last four years," she added. "We know what's happened over the last four years with the cancellations of the pipelines and Bill C-69 and Bill C-48."
However, Savage did say there are plenty of issues outstanding that will need to be addressed in the days ahead.
"We have to see the Trans Mountain pipeline concluded; we need to see an end to the CN oil strike but certainly, having a minister from Newfoundland, where there is oil and gas production already, and from Newfoundland, where a province understands what happens when your primary industry is under siege and under attack, I think it's helpful."
Savage said the number one issue on the table right now is the CN rail strike that she says affects the industry because, each day, 170,000 barrels of oil are not getting to market.
She also expects this will just be the first of many visits O'Regan will make to the province.
In a statement, O'Regan said that the federal government shares a common goal of ensuring that the country's natural resources, including oil and gas in Alberta, are sustainably developed and continue to be a source of well-paying jobs.
“My focus at this time is to listen and fully understand the challenges faced by this industry, and the impact those challenges are having on workers and their families," he said. "We remain committed to the Trans Mountain expansion, which is under construction and is already employing thousands of hardworking Canadians."
Not everyone on Parliament Hill was as rosy about Friday's meeting as Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative Party's natural resources critic, says more action is needed to solve the crisis facing both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"The Liberals are not listening to the message Western Canada sent the Prime Minister on election night," Stubbs; office wrote in an email. "If Prime Minister Trudeau is to walk the talk on listening to Western Canada and working collaboratively with the premiers, the first step is to scrap Bill C-69 and use the 187 Senate amendments nine out of ten premiers and all territorial leaders asked for as the blueprint to replace it."
(With files from The Canadian Press)