Trudeau understands oilpatch challenges, energy leaders say after Calgary meetings

Several oil and gas industry leaders were all smiles after a set of roundtables in Calgary with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, convinced that he fully appreciates the challenges they face.

The prime minister took part in discussions with oil and gas executives as well as industry goods and service providers.

"What we got today was an understanding of the challenges we face," said Suncor Energy CEO Steve Williams, whose company — Canada's largest oilsands player — posted a net loss of $2 billion for the final three months of 2015.

Williams said Trudeau listened to industry concerns about the price cycle of oil and market access during the roundtable, which included senior executives from Shell, Husky, Cenovus and other major firms, along with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Trudeau was also well-received at the second roundtable, which included representatives of the companies that provide goods and services to the oil and gas companies.

"It was a very good meeting. Informative on both sides, and I see the prime minister … understands the importance of the oil and gas industry to Canada, not just Alberta," said Ian McConnell, a vice-president at Core Laboratories. 

"Getting access to markets is important and he understands that. From what he told us today, he's in favour of pipelines because it benefits all of Canada."

The head of the the Petroleum Services Association of Canada says Trudeau seems prepared to act as the champion for getting Alberta's oil to market. 

"He appreciates it, he knows that it's not an easy task, but he's going to take it on for us. So we really appreciate that," he said.  

Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, who also took part in Thursday's roundtable, said no agreements were reached, but it was a productive meeting.

"I think right now the prime minister is just listening and learning as much from the industry and the challenges," she said. 

Trudeau met with Notley in Edmonton on Wednesday, where she says she impressed upon him how important pipelines are to the province in getting oilsands crude to tidewater and off to foreign markets.

Trudeau also is under pressure to advocate for the controversial Energy East pipeline project, rather than play peacemaker among the different sides.

Trudeau says he wants to let the approval process play out through the National Energy Board.

trudeau calgary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a roundtable discussion with senior leaders from Shell Canada, Suncor Energy, Husky Energy and others, along with federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Alberta's energy minister, and Calgary MP Kent Hehr. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"One of the things that Canadians understand is we need rigorous processes that actually evaluate and engage with concerned citizens, with scientists, with indigenous groups, and that's exactly what we're empowering the NEB to do properly. And we look forward to the process," the Liberal leader said.

She said the prime minister confirmed that millions of dollars are on the way from Ottawa to help offset the downturn in the energy sector.

Alberta will get nearly $700 million in federal infrastructure money "immediately." Ottawa also plans to grant the $250 million requested by Alberta under the fiscal stabilization fund. 

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