Sask. mining industry joins energy sector in opposition to Bill C-69
“It just creates this level of uncertainty that just doesn’t exist this way,” Nutrien Ltd. Chief Administrative Officer Mike Webb told reporters after testifying about Bill C-69 before a Senate of Canada standing committee in Saskatoon.
“C-69 creates uncertainty and additional regulation that we think will be bad for our industry, bad for the industries that support and feed our organization. And it’s unnecessary. We think it should be scrapped, period.”
Western Canada’s energy sector and conservative politicians have been the most vocal opponents of C-69; some have dubbed it the “anti-pipeline” bill. Saskatchewan’s mining industry also has deep reservations.
Nutrien and Mosaic Co. — which together operate nine of Saskatchewan’s 10 potash mines — as well as Cameco Corp. were among the speakers who picked it apart in front of the Senate’s Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning.
Outside the downtown hotel that hosted the hearings, about a dozen members of Canada Action rallied against what Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce CEO Darla Lindbjerg described as legislation that threatens jobs and makes Canadian natural resources less attractive.
“For the potash sector, we’d prefer to be exempted from this bill,” Sarah Fedorchuk, Mosaic’s vice-president of public affairs, told reporters after outlining multiple concerns to the committee, which is in the midst of a national tour to hear opinions about C-69.
Those concerns include a national railway system already struggling to meet demand in the absence of new oil pipelines as well as the potential difficulty of new pipelines to the company’s natural gas-dependent Belle Plaine solution mine, she said.
Cameco, which owns two uranium mines and a mill in northern Saskatchewan and has been struggling amid a lengthy depression in nuclear fuel prices, has slightly different concerns about the proposed legislation.
Alice Wong, the company’s chief corporate officer, said the biggest challenge facing her industry is that it automatically refers proposed uranium mines to a “much more complicated” approval process that includes a review panel.
“There’s no science-based facts to support that. There’s nothing in a uranium mine that’s different than a regular mine, and we’re already regulated by our life-cycle regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission,” she told reporters.
The panel — which was joined on Thursday by Sen. Pamela Wallin, who is from Wadena, Sask. — heard from one witness who voiced support for C-69: Inter-Church Uranium Committee President Rev. Michael Poellet.
Brian Schmidt, the CEO of mid-sized oil and gas producer Tamarack Valley Energy Ltd., testified that C-69 will worsen rather than improve the federal government’s consultation process with Indigenous groups affected by proposed projects.
“When everyone has a voice on a project, it drowns out Indigenous voices on traditional land,” Schmidt told the committee before recommending that input be limited to groups directly affected by any specific project.
The federal government maintains that no legislation can override its constitutional obligations to consult with Indigenous groups.
Sen. Rosa Galvez, who chairs the committee and sits as an independent senator after being appointed by the Liberals in 2016, told reporters that the testimony offered Thursday was “very similar” to what the committee heard in other cities.
She said remarks about providing certainty both to resource companies and their investors as well as reinforcing reconciliation with Indigenous groups were among the most significant points made Thursday in Saskatoon.
“We’re going to have amendments in all those areas … There are new concerns and new issues, so there is always this need to modernize this type of legislation, and this is what we are trying to do,” Galvez said.
Conservative Sen. Michael MacDonald, the committee’s deputy chair, was more forceful, telling reporters he believes the legislation would be particularly “damaging” for Indigenous communities it was designed to protect.
Asked what it will take to avoid that, MacDonald responded by saying “hundreds of amendments.” However, he continued, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”