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Ottawa’s Regulatory Assault on the Extraction Sector and Its Impact on Investment

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9 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Business investment is a foundational requirement for a prosperous economy. It provides the resources to establish new companies, expand existing ones, and invest in new factories, machinery, and technologies. Business investment in Canada has declined markedly for over a decade. It is a major reason why Canadian living standards are stagnating in absolute terms and declining relative to many peer countries, particularly the United States.1

One factor behind declining business investment is the heavy regulatory burden imposed by the current federal government on the extraction sector, which includes: mining, quarrying, and oil and gas. Since 1990, this sector averaged 17.3 percent of total non-residential business investment, and reached as high as 28.7 percent of the total in 2013.2

The federal government has been particularly critical of the oil and gas sector. As an example of such sentiment, in a 2017 speech Prime Minister Trudeau said it would take time to “phase out” the oil sands, indicating the long-term goal of the federal government to eliminate the fossil fuel industry (Muzyka, 2017). The prime minister’s comments were followed by a number of new regulations that directly or indirectly targeted the oil and gas sector:

• In 2019, Bill C-69 amended and introduced federal acts to overhaul the governmental review process for approving major infrastructure projects (Parliament of Canada, 2018). The changes were heavily criticized for prolonging the already lengthy approval process, increasing uncertainty, and further politicizing the process (Green, 2019).

• In 2019, Bill C-48 changed regulations for vessels transporting oil to and from ports on British Columbia’s northern coast, effectively banning such shipments and thus limiting the ability of Canadian firms to export (Parliament of Canada, 2019).

• Indications from the federal government that a mandatory hard cap on GHG emissions would eventually be introduced for the oil and gas sector. In 2023, such a cap was introduced (Kane and Orland, 2023), excluding other GHG emitting sectors of the economy (Watson, 2022).

• In early 2023, the government announced new fuel regulations, which will further increase the cost of fuels beyond the carbon tax (ECCC, 2023).

• In late 2023, with limited consultation with industry or the provinces, the Trudeau government announced major new regulations for methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, which will almost inevitably raise costs and curtail production (Tasker, 2016).

The growing regulatory burden has a number of implications that impede or even prohibit oil and gas investment, by increasing costs and uncertainty, making it less attractive to invest in Canada. Both a 2022 survey of mining companies and a 2023 survey of petroleum companies identified the same three risks as inhibiting investment in Canadian provinces—uncertainty over disputed land claims, protected areas, and environmental regulations.3

It is also important to recognize that the Trudeau government introduced a carbon tax in 2016, which conceptually should replace regulations related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as those listed previously rather than be an additional policy lever used to manage GHG emissions.4

The regulations discussed above, as well as direct decisions by the federal government had tangible effects on the oil and gas sector:

• In late 2016, the Northern Gateway pipeline running from northern Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia was cancelled by the Trudeau government, further limiting the ability of firms in Alberta to get their products to export markets (Tasker, 2016).

• In 2017, TransCanada Corp. cancelled its $15.7 billion Energy East pipeline, which would have transported oil from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick. The project was cancelled in large measure due to changes in national policy regarding the approval of large infrastructure projects (Canadian Press, 2017).

• While the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC was approved, Kinder Morgan exited the project in 2018 due to uncertainties and questions about the economics of the project, forcing the Trudeau government to take the ownership. The cost of the project has since increased by more than four times the original estimate to $30.9 billion (Globe and Mail Editorial Board, 2023).

• In 2019, US-based Devon Energy announced plans to exit Canada’s oilsands to pursue more profitable opportunities in the United States (Healing, 2019).

• In 2020, Teck Resources abandoned its $20 billion Frontier oilsands mine in Alberta because of increasing regulatory uncertainty (Connolly, 2020).

• In 2020, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway decided not to invest $4 billion in Saguenay LNG, a liquified natural gas plant and pipeline, due to political and regulatory risks (CBC News, 2020).

The divestitures above are not an exhaustive list. Other companies including Norwegian Equinor (formerly Statoil), France’s TotalEnergies SE (formerly Total SA), US-based Murphy Oil, and ConocoPhillips have all reduced their investments in Canada’s oil and gas sector.

The government’s mounting regulations and hostilities towards the oil and gas sector did not go unnoticed outside of Canada. A 2018 article in The Economist listed the many failures to develop pipeline infrastructure in Canada to bring much-demanded oil and gas to market. Indeed, the piece called it a “three-ring circus” that risked “alienating foreign investors who are already pulling back from Canada” (Economist, 2018).

It is first important to acknowledge the overall decline in business investment in Canada since 2014. Overall, total non-residential business investment (inflation-adjusted) declined by 7.3 percent between 2014 and 2022.5, 6

The decline in business investment in the extractive sector (mining, quarrying, and oil and gas) is even more pronounced. Since 2014, business investment excluding residential structures and adjusted for inflation has declined from $101.9 billion to $49.7 billion in 2022, a reduction of 51.2 percent (figure 1).7


A similar decline in business investment of 52.1 percent is observed for conventional oil and gas, falling from $46.6 billion in 2014 to $22.3 billion in 2022 (inflation-adjusted) (figure 1). In percentage terms the decline in non-conventional oil extraction was even larger at 71.2 percent, falling from $37.3 billion in 2014 to $10.7 billion in 2022.8

Simply put, the declines in the extraction sector are larger than the total decline in overall non-residential business
investment between 2014 and 2022, indicating the magnitude of the overall effect of the decline in business investment in this sector.

The importance of business investment to the health of an economy and the rising living standards of citizens cannot be overstated. One of the major challenges facing Canadian prosperity are regulatory barriers, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

In that light, much of the regulatory burden added over the last eight years to the oil and gas sector should simply be eliminated. In some ways this is already being forced on the federal government through court decisions. For instance, in October of 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that parts of Bill C-69 were unconstitutional as they infringed on areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, requiring revisions to the Act (Dryden, 2023).

A careful and clear analysis is needed of the costs and benefits of the regulatory measures imposed on the oil and gas sector, including Bill C-48, the recent methane regulations, and the emissions cap. Based on this analysis, the regulatory measures should be adjusted to help improve the ability of Canada’s energy sector to attract and retain investment.

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Economy

Trump’s Promise Of American Abundance, Fueled By ‘Liquid Gold’

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JAMES P. PINKERTON

 

One of the brightest nuggets of policy in Donald Trump’s July 18 acceptance speech to the Republican convention in Milwaukee was his ode to “liquid gold.” That is, oil.

As part of his inflation-fighting plan, Trump offered a gleaming solution: increase energy production, thereby decreasing energy prices. “By slashing energy costs,” Trump declared, “we will in turn reduce the cost of transportation, manufacturing and all household goods.”

He continued: “We have more liquid gold under our feet than any other country by far. We are a nation that has the opportunity to make an absolute fortune with its energy.”

Indeed. According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER) technically recoverable oil resources in the U.S. total 2.136 trillion barrels. At the current price of around $80 a barrel, that’s some $171 trillion. And so, Trump concluded, “we will reduce our debt, $36 trillion.”

As former Alaska governor Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha.” In Palin’s Alaska, oil is so abundant, relative to the population, that everyone gets a check from the state. Last year, it was $1,312. For a family of four, that’s more than $5000. Our goal should be that every American gets such an energy dividend.

Moreover, the abundance of America’s carbon fuels is not limited to oil. According to IER, we have 3.391 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s worth $165 trillion.

To be sure, these staggering dollar totals can’t be counted directly against the national debt—or in support of some future tax cut. Yet every dollar of our energy assets would contribute to the economy, and if even 10  percent of the humongous total could be available to the public, we could, in fact, pay off the national debt.

Moreover, thanks to fracking and other enhanced recovery techniques, we keep finding more energy: Human ingenuity has upended old beliefs about energy shortages, ushering in an almost Moore’s Law-ish surge in production.

Indeed, there’s so much oil and gas (and coal) that an emerging school of thought holds that carbon fuels aren’t “fossil” at all, but rather, the product of earth’s vulcanism. The core of this earth, after all, is the same temperature as the surface of the sun. Perhaps all that heat is cooking something.

In any case, we keep finding more oil, and not just in the U.S.

So how, exactly, do we take advantage of this planetary cornucopia? As Palin said, as Trump said, and as the convention crowd chanted, “drill, baby, drill.”

Okay, but what about climate change? Most Republicans don’t worry too much about that, but if Democrats do, they should be reassured that we can capture the carbon and so take it out of the atmosphere. Trees and other green vegetation have been capturing carbon for eons; the element is, in fact, vital to their very existence. Similarly, the human body is 18 percent carbon. Yes, all of us ourselves are carbon sinks.

So we, being smart, can capture vastly more carbon — capturing it in everything from wood to cement, from plastics to nanotubes. These in turn can be landfill, construction materials — maybe even a space elevator.

We can, in fact, establish a a circular carbon economy: carbon fuels extracted, burned, and then recycled back into feedstocks. By this reckoning, carbon fuels are renewable. Such creative thinking can power all those energy-hungry data centers on which Big Tech and AI depend. So there’s the makings of a bipartisan “Grand Carbon Bargain,” uniting mostly blue-state tech with mostly red-state energy. More energy + more tech = more wealth for all.

In Milwaukee, Trump spoke of American “energy dominance,” and that’s great. But with all the energy we can produce and consume, we can speak of economic abundance — and that’s even greater.

James P. Pinkerton served in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is the author, most recently, of “The Secret of Directional Investing: Making Money Amidst the Red-Blue Rumble.”

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Trudeau pledges another $500 million to Ukraine as Canadian military suffers

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

Despite the nation’s own armed forces grappling with an alarming recruitment crisis, Justin Trudeau and his government have poured over $13.3 billion into Ukraine.

More Canadians tax dollars are being sent overseas as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised an additional $500 million in military aid to Ukraine. 

During a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trudeau announced that he would send another $500 million to Ukraine as it continues its war against Russia, despite an ongoing decline in Canada’s military recruitment.  

“We’re happy to offer we’re announcing today $500 million more military aid this year for Ukraine, to help through this very difficult situation,” Trudeau said. 

In addition to the $500 million, Canada will also provide much of Ukraine’s fighter jet pilot training as Ukraine receives its first F-16s. 

Trudeau’s statement comes after Canada has been under fire for failing to meet NATO’s mandate that all members commit at least two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the military alliance. 

According to his 2024 budget, Trudeau plans to spend $8.1 billion over five years, starting in 2024-25, and $73.0 billion over 20 years on the Department of National Defence.   

Interestingly, $8.1 billion divided equally over five years is $1,620,000 each year for the Canadian military. Therefore, Trudeau’s pledge of $500 million means he is spending just under a third on Ukraine compared to what he plans to spend on Canadians.  

Indeed, Trudeau seems reluctant to spend money on the Canadian military, as evidenced when Canadian troops in Latvia were forced to purchase their own helmets and food when the Trudeau government failed to provide proper supplies.  

Weeks later, Trudeau lectured the same troops on “climate change” and disinformation.       

However, at the same time, Trudeau readily sends Canadian tax dollars overseas to Ukraine. Since the Russia-Ukraine war began in 2022, Canada has given Ukraine over $13.3 billion, including $4 billion in direct military assistance.    

In May, Trudeau’s office announced $3.02 billion in funding for Ukraine, including millions of taxpayer dollars to promote “gender-inclusive demining.”  

Trudeau’s ongoing funding for Ukraine comes as many Canadians are struggling to pay for basics such as food, shelter, and heating. According to a recent government report, fast-rising food costs in Canada have led to many people feeling a sense of “hopelessness and desperation” with nowhere to turn for help.  

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