Scott Moe: SK’s New Premier Sounds Off

By Jess Sinclair

Sworn in as Saskatchewan’s 15th Premier on February 2nd, 2018, the Honourable Scott Moe has already cultivated a reputation for assertiveness on issues affecting Canada’s oil and gas industry. Like his predecessor, Brad Wall, Moe is stridently anti-carbon tax and wasted no time declaring his fervent support for Canadian pipeline projects.

It turns out Premier Moe pulls no punches when it comes to other energy and resource-related issues as well. The team at The Hitch was fortunate enough to get the Premier’s take on issues ranging from royalties to the stakes for Saskatchewan’s bourgeoning steel industry should the status of Canada’s most important pipeline projects remain uncertain.

Sworn in as Saskatchewan’s 15th Premier on February 2nd, 2018, the Honourable Scott Moe has already cultivated a reputation for assertiveness on issues affecting Canada’s oil and gas industry. Like his predecessor, Brad Wall, Moe is stridently anti-carbon tax and wasted no time declaring his fervent support for Canadian pipeline projects.

It turns out Premier Moe pulls no punches when it comes to other energy and resource-related issues as well. The team at the Hitch was fortunate enough to get the Premier’s take on issues ranging from royalties to the stakes for Saskatchewan’s bourgeoning steel industry should the status of Canada’s most important pipeline projects remain uncertain.

The Hitch: What are the primary challenges facing Western Canada’s oil and gas industry today, especially in terms of competitiveness with other jurisdictions?

Scott Moe: The challenges we face in our energy sector are evolving rapidly. As a land locked province, one of the most important challenges is market access; whether through rail or preferably pipelines. In 2017, the lack of pipeline connections to tidewater cost Saskatchewan approximately $56 million in royalties and cost Saskatchewan producers an estimated $800 million. A recent report by Scotiabank notes that the discount on our oil stemming from pipeline approval delays could cost the energy sector $15.6 billion in yearly revenue. So as we look forward to build another decade of growth in our province, we must continue to champion our exports while ensuring we have the infrastructure in place to keep growing our economy and providing jobs for families and future generations.

We also need to mindful of global competitiveness and the discussion surrounding a carbon tax and how it will harm our oil and gas industry, and every other industry for that matter. Stripping dollars from our industries won’t make Saskatchewan more competitive, especially when those industries can move to other jurisdictions like the United States – one of our biggest competitors and export markets – where there is no and will be no carbon tax in the foreseeable future.

Above: Scott Moe visits CAODC Member Panther Drilling

TH: You’ve stated before that you will not commit to the implementation of a carbon tax in Saskatchewan. Do you believe that there is a place for market-based emissions-reduction strategies in Saskatchewan at all?

SM: There is no jurisdiction in the world where a carbon tax has actually been responsible for reducing emissions. A carbon tax does not work and it will not work for Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan we have policies and practices that not only reduce pollution but also lead efforts to address climate change. For instance, our agricultural sector and cropping practices heavily contribute to carbon sequestration; whether that is through farmers growing pulse crops which offsets two million tonnes of carbon annually, or using zero till seeding which sequesters over 11 million tonnes of carbon per year.

Our province is also home to the world’s first post-combustion carbon capture and storage technology used at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 plant, which has offset nearly two million tonnes of carbon—the equivalent to taking roughly half a million vehicles off the road. We as a province need to look at how we can start a conversation about how we use and export our knowledge, technology and best practices around the world to address the issue of carbon emission, as opposed to taxing industry.

I’m proud of the important work our partners in industry are doing to use green technology to produce our products more sustainably.

TH: At least one of the candidates for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP has recently stated that he will commit to a resource royalty review. Do you believe that the province’s royalty structure needs an overhaul?

SM: No, our province’s current royalty structure has served us well. Our focus needs to be on and continues to be on standing up for Saskatchewan to keep our province competitive. In 2017, Saskatchewan [was] number two in Canada and seventh in the world for best investment climate for oil and gas, according to the Fraser Institute. Royalty structures are part of that competitive environment, but so too is the issue around carbon taxation. Our Government will not make changes that will negatively impact one of the most important industries in our province. We will continue to make sure that Saskatchewan has an attractive investment climate to support our industry, which in turn will support of economy and quality of life for Saskatchewan residents.

TH: How can governments champion the cause of market access for Canadian oil and gas products in order to get construction started on critical projects like the Trans Mountain expansion?  

SM: Provincial economies throughout Canada rely on ways to get products to markets. To that end, governments need to promote the need to increase capacity on our transportation systems. We also need to continue lobbying our federal government to ensure that projects get started and completed. Pipelines are the safest and most effective way to transport oil; using rail shipping on the other hand is more expensive, demonstrably riskier and at the end of the day means less capacity is available for farmers and other producers who need to transport their goods.

Our Government will continue to stand up for and defend Saskatchewan families and workers who depend on jobs created and fostered by our oil and gas industry.

TH: How do cancelled or delayed pipeline projects affect job prospects for the people of Saskatchewan, namely those employed by companies such as Evraz North America, which is currently looking at layoffs at its Regina facility if  TMX does not proceed?

SM: The political obstructionism by the Government of British Columbia and inaction by the federal government to get this pipeline built threatens hundreds of jobs and livelihoods in our province’s capital city and thousands across Canada. Hundreds of unionized steel manufacturing jobs in Regina who supply pipe material for the Trans Mountain construction project are put in jeopardy if TMX does not proceed. Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector is among the largest primary industry contributors to our provincial GDP, making up around 15 per cent of our total GDP, and supports tens of thousands of jobs directly or indirectly. It is therefore imperative that these important projects proceed, which in turn support the livelihoods and quality of life for Saskatchewanians and Canadians alike.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.