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Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources in Yellowknife on ’nation building once again’

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(CRC)—Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, delivered the keynote speech at the just concluded annual Canadian Energy and Mines Minister’s Conference held this year in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Here are some highlights of his prepared remarks to the participants on August 26:

“…North American energy independence is now on the horizon. This is ushering in a very different supply–demand paradigm for Canada. Or to be less pretentious, we have one customer — 99 percent of our crude and 100 percent of our natural gas exports go to the U.S. — a customer that will be needing our commodities less in the future.

“So this challenge forces us to confront an incredible opportunity. To expand our markets and supply what the world urgently needs. And reap enormous benefits now and for future generations.

“As you know, over the next decade, hundreds of major resource projects, worth $650 billion, could come on stream here in Canada.

“From hydroelectricity in Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador; to new mining projects in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Northern Quebec and the Ring of Fire in Ontario; to rare-earth elements in the Northwest Territories, iron ore in Nunavut, gold mines in the Yukon, uranium mines in Saskatchewan, the oil sands in Alberta and liquefied natural gas in BC — few countries in the world are bringing on resource projects of this scale or at this pace.

“But let’s be clear: more than ever, prosperity requires foresight — it is not a birthright. If we are going to seize the opportunities we need to act now — develop our resources, build the infrastructure, diversify our markets and lay the foundations for the future. So we have a choice: to proceed or procrastinate. We can roll up our sleeves or wring our hands. We can decide to get this done or we can dither — and watch the opportunities pass to others.

“Because make no mistake, this moment — this opportunity — is perishable. It will not last forever. And it does not exist just for us. So we have to organize ourselves for success. We need to implement the policies that will make this happen. And we have to do it together.

“…But at the same time, we are hearing objections from those who see resource development and responsible environmental stewardship as an either/or zero-sum game. Let me be clear, I am not talking about the many Canadians, including our Aboriginal peoples, who have legitimate concerns about environmental safety and are open to a fact- and science-based discussion.

“My objection is to those who oppose virtually every form of resource development, whose opinions are not based on facts and whose vision is simply too limited.

“My friends, Canada was not built by naysayers. It was built by women and men who dared greatly. Took on big challenges. And applied their ingenuity to overcome them.

“…Imagine if we had said no to the St. Lawrence Seaway — one of the outstanding engineering feats of the 20th century, lifting ships 100 metres over the Niagara Escarpment. A marine highway which has moved more than $375 billion worth of cargo since its opening.

“What if we had looked at the development of the James Bay hydroelectricity complex and said, “the terrain is too difficult, the surveying too challenging, the engineering too hard, the environmental impact too great.”

“We would have lost the chance to build one of the largest hydroelectric undertakings in the world — the watershed of La Grande Rivière covering an area twice the size of Scotland. A project that today has a generating capacity of over 17,000 megawatts of renewable electricity, critical in achieving that 77 percent of Canada’s electricity comes from non-emitting sources, among the highest in the world.

“In every one of these examples — and many more — the odds were long. The challenges great. And the opposition fierce.

“…’Nation-building’ is not confined to our history, an echo from our past. It is our obligation to the future. And every generation must honour that obligation…” [GG]