Taskforce calls for Canadian strategy, infrastructure to meet Asian energy needs

VANCOUVER – Canada needs to explore development of a public-private energy transportation corridor to export oil and gas to the Asia-Pacific region, suggests a report issued Wednesday by two special-interest groups.

The transportation corridor would consist of a combination of pipelines and rail transportation to Canada’s west coast, operated by the private sector but regulated as a kind of public utility, the report suggests.

The report was released by a taskforce sponsored by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and the Canada West Foundation.

Some of the infrastructure exists and several companies plan to build more but the report says there needs to be a broader, more strategic approach.

“A commitment to invest in hard and soft infrastructure to export energy is a pre-requisite for closer economic ties with Asia. Developing a public energy transportation corridor constituted by government, regulated as a kind of public utility, and operated by the private sector merits further study.

“This corridor could consist of a combination of pipelines and rail transportation for oil and gas to the west coast.”

Similar calls for a Canadian energy strategy have been made recently by Alberta’s Alison Redford in a meeting with other western provincial premiers. The energy industry has also been in favour of looking beyond the United States and Canada.

However, plans to build the Gateway pipeline system between Alberta and Kitimat, B.C., have been opposed by a variety of environmental and First Nations groups — resulting in months of public-hearings that are currently under way.

The federal government, led by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, has promised to speed up the regulatory approval process by eliminating duplication of efforts and creating hard deadlines for completing approvals within two years.

Kathy Sendall, Director of CGG Veritas and a co-chair of the taskforce that produced the report, said in Wednesday’s announcement that “we can no longer be complacent in how we deal with Asia on the energy file.

“The window of opportunity will not be open forever, and now is the time to play our strongest card to strengthen our overall relations with the region,” Sendall said.

The other co-chairman of the task force is Kevin Lynch, a vice-chairman of the BMO Financial Group (TSX:BMO), one of Canada’s largest banking companies.