The premier of the energy-rich Canadian province of Alberta on Friday insisted the federal government must approve a massive oil sands project, saying to reject it would send a terrible signal to investors.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Canada is preparing an aid package for Alberta that would help dull the pain if it blocks Teck Resources Ltd’s plan to build the C$20.6 billion ($15.7 billion) Frontier mine that has raised climate and wildlife concerns.
Alberta strongly backs the project on the grounds it would create 7,000 jobs and help revive a struggling provincial energy industry. The federal cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must make a decision by the end of this month.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Teck had spent close to C$1 billion over a decade as it cleared a series of regulatory hurdles. A rejection now would show global capital markets that major projects could obey all the rules and still fall afoul of what he called an arbitrary political decision, he said.
“I think that would be a devastating message to send in terms of investor confidence at a time when we are struggling to attract foreign direct investment to the Canadian economy,” Kenney told a business audience in Washington, D.C.
“Why would anyone invest in Canada? It’s a very dangerous path to go down,” he said in comments streamed on Facebook.
Alberta has long been unhappy with what it sees as the Trudeau government’s decision to introduce strict environmental rules around energy projects. The ruling Liberals lost every Alberta seat in an election last October.
Kenney said it would be “hard to overstate” the reaction of Albertans from a rejection of the project.
Teck President and Chief Executive Don Lindsay recently questioned whether the mine would ever be built, in part because oil prices were not high enough.
Asked whether he thought the project would go ahead, Kenney replied: “The president of the company has said to me, absolutely.”
Alberta sits on the world’s third largest proven reserves of crude, most of it in the form of thick bitumen-like deposits that require intensive use of energy to exploit.