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No time for Noia’s negativity, N.L.'s O’Regan says

St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan speaks Thursday at the Signal Hill Visitor Interpretation Centre about the federal government’s new environmental and regulatory review policy regarding major projects.
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan. - Joe Gibbons

MP pushes back on heels of annual oil industry conference

St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan wasn’t happy when reading reports out of the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Oil & Gas Industry Association (Noia) conference this week.

In an interview with The Telegram Friday, on an unrelated topic, O’Regan raised the subject of the conference. He referred to industry representatives who spoke critically there on new federal regulations —calling for clarity — as “nattering nabobs of negativity.”

Nabob is a person of conspicuous wealth or high status.

“They keep going on about instability, and instability, and instability, to the point where that seems to be the only headline coming out of this conference,” he said.

O’Regan warned about global perception, saying repeated calls for clarity will paint a negative picture and repel investment. And he said it wasn’t necessary, as any uncertainty would be temporary.

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“Noia’s message of instability is hurting the industry of this province,” he said.

Bill C-69, repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and introducing the new Impact Assessment Act, passed with third reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday — in the middle of the Noia conference. Regulations under the legislation, relevant to the offshore industry, will follow.

As reported during the conference, co-CEO of J.D. Irving Ltd. John Irving, former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall (now a special adviser for Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP) and Noia CEO Charlene Johnson all made comments on the need for the local offshore to be globally competitive, including from a regulatory perspective.

Noia launched a new campaign (ImagineThePotential.ca), meant to raise awareness of some of the specific benefits from the offshore oil industry, while the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) launched a separate campaign (KeepNLCompetitive.ca), addressing challenges.

When presented with the comments from O’Regan, Johnson said she would not comment on hearsay, but added feedback from the conference has been generally positive.

“There was certainly a theme by speakers and industry at the conference that Canada needs to demonstrate that we are open for business, and Bill C-69 is not the only issue — as it appears that was the focus of his comments,” Johnson stated in an email to The Telegram.

In a new CAPP video, issues noted include the application of federal carbon policy and, separately, “costs due to regulatory inefficiency.”

And as reported by the Canadian Press in May, Premier Dwight Ball said confusion between existing federal marine refuge zones and marine protected areas had “stranded investment” for activity offshore.

“At Noia we work with the federal government and officials there have been very receptive and understanding of our concerns,” Johnson said, before putting the pressure back on the feds. “The time is now for certainty as it is imperative to have a successful bid round for land sales in November.

“We cannot lose momentum.”

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