Former Suncor CEO Rick George says political delays in approving key energy infrastructure and uncertainty surrounding Ottawa’s implementation of a new carbon tax are driving away investment in the oil sands and making Canada less competitive.
“We have not helped ourselves with uncertainty around carbon pricing, uncertainty around policies on pipelines (and) around getting infrastructure approved,” George told BNN in an interview. “We have not made ourselves an attractive place to invest.”
Canadian policymakers need to prove to investors that Canada is serious about doing what it takes to keep the domestic energy sector competitive, George said.
“I know these federal and provincial ministers talk a good game, but what have we actually approved?” George said. “There is a lot of room between the rhetoric we hear politically and reality.”
Delays in approving infrastructure projects may have already doomed Canada’s nascent liquid natural gas projects, George said. “I think we missed the market. We delay things in this country so long, between when we start talking about doing a project, and when they ultimately get completed,” said George. “You have to be competitive and to be honest with you in that realm we haven’t helped ourselves.”
There are more than a dozen Canadian LNG terminal proposals on the table, including a $36 billion project by Malaysia’s state-owned oil company, Petronas. Most of the projects have stalled amid delays in project approvals and concerns about weak energy prices and global LNG oversupply.
George is confident Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and TransCanada’s Keystone XL will ultimately come online. Those pipelines will help relieve the Canadian energy bottleneck, but George said more energy infrastructure is needed.
“Lots of projects have been blocked and we need to get these projects unblocked and underway,” said George, who ran Suncor Energy for nearly two decades - transforming the company from a privately held oil producer into Canada’s largest integrated oil and gas company.
Uncertainty around the implementation of Ottawa’s proposed carbon tax is also making Canada’s energy sector less competitive, George said.
While he is not against a carbon tax, George said the Ottawa’s current plan will damage both Canada’s energy economy and investor confidence.
“If you are going to go in big steps and big jumps you are going to lose the confidence of your investors and your shareholders and that is not a great thing for an industry.”