OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is en route to Texas to make the case for investing in Canadian natural resources – while protecting the environment – at an influential global gathering of politicians and oil and gas executives.
“This is about making our economy more competitive and leaving our kids a cleaner environment,” Trudeau said in a statement last week when his office announced the two-day trip to Houston.
This is the first time a Canadian prime minister has joined the annual CERAWeek conference, which brings more than 3,000 people – including legislators, energy executives, innovators and experts – from around the world.
Trudeau is to talk up the connection between resource development and taking care of the environment in a keynote speech Thursday night.
The conference is also giving him an award for his stance in favour of sustainable development.
Trudeau will participate in a roundtable discussion on the future of energy with Daniel Yergin, the vice-chairman of IHS Markit, the London-based research firm that organizes the conference.
It comes at a time when the energy industry, buoyed by a recent resurgence in the price of oil, and governments around the world are grappling with a dramatic shift in American politics.
Barack Obama, the former U.S. president, had emphasized the global fight against climate change as he neared the end of his time in the White House.
That position aligned smoothly with Trudeau’s commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy.
His successor, President Donald Trump, has vowed to boost fossil fuel production through easing regulations and building more pipelines, including the Keystone XL project that TransCanada proposed nearly a decade ago.
That pipeline, which the Liberal government supports, could bring Canadian jobs and help for the struggling Alberta economy.
But Trump’s anti-regulation and tough-on-trade approach could also challenge Trudeau’s vision for a clean-energy future and the carbon-pricing plan he says will help bring it about.
The visit to Houston is part of ongoing efforts by the Liberal government to convince the Trump administration and other American legislators that keeping an open border benefits the economy – including the energy sector – in both Canada and the U.S.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who has been at the conference all week, told CNBC in an interview that Canada is looking for “common ground” with the Trump administration.
“I prefer to talk about opportunity than fear, and the way that you take advantage of opportunity is to make arguments and make friends,” Carr said.
“And the arguments we’re making is that the interests of Canada and the United States are actually aligned very well in the energy sector,” he said.
Trudeau is likely to point out during the conference that his government approved two pipelines – the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan line and the Line 3 rebuild by Energy East – as a sign that his pro-environment government is still serious about natural resource development.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose government brought in a $20-a-tonne carbon levy this year, is also at the conference.
Alberta has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, but they are also expensive and carbon-intensive.
Many companies have been taking another look at their investments there after the plunge in crude prices around the world.
Asked whether she was concerned about a flight of foreign investment from the oilsands, Notley told reporters Monday the sector will be able to adjust.
“I think in the long term, it will stand the test of time,” she said.