B.C. energy minister interrupts, sidesteps question on Canadian oil

Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall raises questions of her own at Energy Forum 2018

When asked at Energy Forum 2018 how Canada is to get its oil to international markets, B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall pivoted to clean technology.

The minister told attendees at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) event that the B.C. government is successfully making the province competitive, while managing environmental needs.

But in a one-on-one discussion with Radha Curpen, Vancouver managing partner at Bennett Jones and co-head of the firm’s environmental law and aboriginal law practices, Mungall interrupted and ignored a question about building pipeline infrastructure by asking a question of her own.

“Can I ask you a question? How do we get our clean tech to the world? How do we get, how do we attract clean industry to British Columbia? Bitcoin is looking at British Columbia. It would require an incredible amount of new energy sources to deliver on the energy needs of Bitcoin,” says Mungall at the end of a discussion that had progressively gotten more tense.

“If you want to focus solely on pipelines, I think you’re missing the bigger opportunities that are waiting in the wings to really grow British Columbia’s economy.”

“I think we want to see all of it,” replied Curpen.

“Well that’s good to hear,” responded Mungall. That exchange ended the conversation.

Earlier in the day, Mungall told GVBOT members she was “ecstatic” to learn of LNG Canada’s positive final investment decision on its $40-billion project, and disheartened when Malaysian energy giant Petronas had turned away from its B.C. project the year before.

“That was very disheartening to see that, and so we had to shift, we had to turn around and identify what it was that we needed to do to make B.C. competitive for that international market.”

She told attendees that the government’s framework for LNG does just that.

She also said it matters what flows through a given pipeline.

“Bitumen is just not the same,” said Mungall, who acknowledged that her perspective on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was different from those held in the room. As an organization, the GVBOT has actively shown support for the development of the project.

However, she said government sees very positive opportunities for the province in natural gas extraction, particularly in B.C.’s Montney region.

“Our plan is to actually move that forward and grow that part of our economy,” she said.