Energy, taxes and the economy were top of mind for Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer as he spoke to supporters in Prince Albert Thursday.
Scheer, along with Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback and Conservative candidate for Desnethe-Missinippi Churchill River Gary Vidal, hosted supporters for a speech and meet and greet with Scheer at the Ches Leach Lounge Thursday morning. It was one of many regional stops for Scheer, as he continues to tour Saskatchewan ahead of the 2019 federal election.
Other Thursday stops included Debden, Big River and Meadow Lake.
The main message Scheer seemed to be driving home during the Prince Albert stop was that his party will do a better job at taking care of Canada’s economy.
“We know what the economy is like here right now and some of the underlying pressures causing people to be really, really worried for the future,” he said.
“The Liberals are finding more and more ways to take money out of your pocket and making it harder and harder for you to get ahead.
“Liberals don’t understand — prosperity is contagious. Success breeds other success. A government shouldn’t be there to punish people who are working hard and trying to build something for their community. They should be there to support them, replicate it and make it easier for other people to do the exact same thing.”
Nowhere is that more evident, Scheer argued, than in the Liberals’ carbon pricing plan.
Scheer described the plan as a “failed policy that will do nothing to protect the environment.” He alleged the carbon tax would “just make the price of literally everything more expensive.”
He turned to Hoback and Vidal.
“‘That’s why … the first piece of legislation you’re going to be asked to vote on will be called ‘An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax.’”
Scheer said the carbon tax is far from the only problem facing Canadians. He said higher payroll taxes and regulations causing the government to grow are also making everything more expensive.
“Liberals put all of their faith in government,” he said. “Conservatives ut our faith in people. Government (is) getting bigger and pushing people to the sides. We will run a government that will live within its means.”
That, Scheer said, includes returning to a balanced budget.
Scheer has yet to provide details on how he plans to return the budget to balance.
He also vowed to lower taxes.
“Every day conservatives wake up, we think of new ways to cut taxes and lower the cost of living to Canadians.”
He promised to take the GST off of home energy and heating bills and to make maternity and parental benefits tax-free. He also reiterated an element of his party’s climate change plan, which, in addition to repealing the carbon tax and putting caps on large emitters, would provide incentives for people to invest int heir own homes to decrease their energy consumption.
He then turned to Canada’s oil and gas sector.
“We have, right now, a prime minister apologizing for Canadian energy,” he said.
“Where Trudeau goes around the world apologizing for it, I will go around the world promoting it. The world needs more Candian oil and gas.”
That statement received the biggest cheer of the morning’s event.
Scheer has promised to make Canada energy independent and build a national energy corridor to transport oil from the west to refineries in the east.
Part of that includes repealing Liberal regulations the conservatives assay make it harder to approve larger projects. Scheer says his plan allows the regulatory process to be done up front with proper environmental consultation and Indigenous collaboration and consultation.
He painted his policy as a return to saying “yes” to large projects and to displacing foreign oil with Canadian product.
He also vowed to ban what he characterized as advocacy groups receiving foreign funding from the approvals process.
Making it easier for projects to be approved would also improve life for Indigenous groups, Scheer said when responding to reporter questions following his speech.
“Dozens of Indigenous communities signed partnership agreements with Northern Gateway. Yes, there was a court ruling which said that the consultations had to be redone because they weren’t dynamic enough and weren’t adequate enough. The answer to that was to relaunch the indigenous consultations and get it right, not kill the project,” he said.
“Our message to Indigenous Canadians is that we want to be full partners and we want to say yes to the types of projects that will improve prosperity. The number of Indigenous communities who can benefit from natural resource products is huge, and they recognize it.That’s why some of the Indigenous leaders have been so vocal about Northern Gateway. That’s why our northern territorial representatives were so outraged that huge swaths of areas have been blocked for development because it’s choking out the types of prosperity that would improve … living conditions on and off reserve.”
Scheer also defended his party against accusations from NDP MP Georgina Jolibois that the party doesn’t support Indigenous rights as strongly as the NDP.
Jolibois had criticized the conservatives for voting against a proposal to create a holiday for a national day of truth and reconciliation.
Scheer said allegations that his party isn’t strong enough on Indigenous rights are “completely false.
“It was our government that made the historic apology for the residential schools and provided compensation to survivors,” he said.
“It’s our party that has always looked to how we can get practical results for people living on and off reserves. What we see from the lIberal government is just empty gestures without any lack of follow-through. They made all kinds of promises about addressing issues on particular reserves and then years later they’ve done nothing.
How much energy does Canada really import?
During his speech and his comments to the media, he asserted that protestors should be lining the St. Lawrence River to stop tankers with foreign oil, and that people in central and Eastern Canada probably don’t know that “a large percentage” of the fuel they’re using comes from the US, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia.
“I don’t want Canadian consumer dollars going to Donald Trump’s economy,” he said. “I want it to stay here in Canada.”
Despite Scheer’s rhetoric, though, it’s unlikely tankers filled with foreign oil are floating down the St. Lawrence River.
According to market data from the National Energy Board, in 2018 Canada imported about one barrel of crude oil for every seven and a half barrels it produces per day.
Further, in 2018, oil imports fell by about 12 per cent.
Of the oil imported, 64 per cent comes from the United States, mostly by pipeline.
Ontario doesn’t import any overseas oil — its only crude oil imports are from the US.
Quebec receives only a small percentage of its oil from overseas sources.
Newfoundland also imports a small percentage of overseas oil.
The province which imports the biggest percentage of oil from non-US sources is New Brunswick. About 83 per cent of oil imported into New Brunswick in 2018 came from non-US sources.
According to a 2018 National Post article, all the Saudi Arabian oil imported to Canada (18 per cent of Canada’s total oil imports) comes in through one single source, Irving Oil’s massive refinery in St. John, New Brunswick, located on the Bay of Fundy, located on the south side of the province. The St. Lawrence River borders New Brunswick on the north.
New Brunswick indeed imports a large percentage of Saudi Arabian oil. From January to June of 2018, the National Post reported, Irving imported $1.8 billion of Saudi oil, about $10 million per day.
While a pipeline to eastern Canada could cut into that, as Scheer suggests, in a 2016 interview, Irving Oil’s president said while the refinery would add western Canadian crude, it probably wouldn’t do so at the expense of its Saudi imports.