Federal minister wants to speed up project reviews

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver wants to see the regulatory process “streamlined” for major projects.

“Major projects in Canada are subject to long and potentially endless delays because of needlessly complex and duplicate regulatory systems. This is costing Canadians good, well-paying jobs and jeopardizing the economic viability of (the) projects,” he said, addressing the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association (NOIA) in St. John’s Thursday.

“That’s why our government is taking responsibility for modernizing our regulatory system. I am confident that we can achieve a regulatory system that does its job to protect Canadians and the environment, but at the same time supports Canadian competitive advantage,” he said.

He called the current process of bringing a project from proposal to construction a “tangled web” businesses have no choice but to navigate — one developed through decades of unco-ordinated changes to the system at the provincial and federal levels.

Oliver said government can shorten the process by reducing duplication in pre-project reviews.

“We can do these things without compromising environmental standards,” he said.

He promoted Canadians using facts to face down opposition to projects from “celebrity environmentalists with naive ideology.”

The Harper government has already taken steps to speed up pre-project reviews. In 2008, the Major Projects Management Office was created as a one-stop for federal regulatory work, 2009 brought steps to simplify the approval process for infrastructure projects and, in 2010, changes were made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

“To achieve the fundamental modernization, we now have to make system-wide changes,” he said.

Oliver made note of several multibillion-dollar projects on the table for this province.

He said the report of the Hebron Public Review Commissioner re-garding benefits from that offshore oil development, released pulblicly at the end of February, is under review with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).

“Once the board has completed its assessment, our government and our provincial counterparts have 30 days to review the board’s decision,” he said.

He also talked about the  Muskrat Falls project.

“The Lower Churchill hydroelectric generation projects offer the potential of massive economic and environmental benefits.”

Following his address, Oliver reiterated federal support for the Muskrat Falls development, but did not commit to a date for the federal loan guarantee to be in place.

Asked about the loan guarantee, he said, “It’s quite complex, but you know we’re there and that’s definitive.”

Also raised with the minister was the question of whether or not the federal government was working to see the creation of an independent offshore safety board.

In his address to NOIA, the minister included an endorsement of the current capabilities of the CNLOPB.

“The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board provides the strong, independent regulation we need to ensure Canada’s standards always meet that test,” he said.

Oliver was scheduled to meet with Premier Kathy Dunderdale later in the day. The creation of an independent offshore safety board and the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee were expected to be discussed.

The response to Oliver at the NOIA event was positive.

“We’re really pleased to see the Government of Canada focused on streamlining regulation, the regulatory regime,” said Robert Cadigan, president and CEO of NOIA.

He applauded federal efforts to lower regulatory hurdles.

Nalcor Energy vice-president Jim Keating said major projects across the country and across industries are facing common challenges in getting projects up and running.

He said the right changes can shorten the pre-project period without having standards slip.

“You can be thorough in two years. You can be thorough in four months,” he said.

And, “the continued support for Muskrat Falls is great to hear.”


Organizations: NOIA, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association Major Projects Management Office

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • larry chase
    March 10, 2012 - 02:04

    Economic growth is the wrong direction for our country, in case you hadn't noticed we are slowly paving over our world and destroying the very thing that supports all living things...THE ENVIRONMENT. We need to stop building and expanding, every new subdivision built, every new road built destroys that much more of what gives us all life. We are basically at the point of no return for enviro damage, WAKE UP GREEDY PEOPLE!!! Everyone of us needs to make a drastic reduction in energy use, it is not a right for us to take what we want from the land, it is a privilege to live on this planet, and we are blowing it.

  • robert dunning
    March 09, 2012 - 17:54

    pointless delays would be a better description of the hoops and obstacles companies must have to endure in this countries. mega means mega growth as well. naturally the ELM[environmental lying movement] would want more hearings to delay or cancel any progress in this country.

    • Townie
      March 10, 2012 - 08:11

      Let's make it even easier Bobby by making the business community responsible for any environmental clean-up. Not just the company because they can go bankrupt faster than the Christian Brothers, but the entire business community. Why do I say that? It's because the business community are the ones who ALWAYS want to irresponsibilily charge ahead. If they can see only profit, then they can take the costs as well. But I don't think they will man-up for that.

  • Louie
    March 09, 2012 - 10:54

    The loan guarantee should not be driving a decision to develop Muskrat Falls. It has too many benefits for Nova Scotia and mainland Canada at the expense of the NL taxpayer and rate payer. Peter Mckay will be smiling ear to ear to sign for this project. We have given enough to mainland Canada. Let's prepare a plan to provide economical enery to NL using the free power from the Upper Churchill in 2041 and give up the more expensive Muskrat which benefits othres more than ourselves.