POLITICS

Oliver: Act now to develop natural resources or risk missing opportunity

08/26/2013 05:13 EDT | Updated 10/26/2013 05:12 EDT
YELLOWKNIFE - Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says the window of opportunity is in danger of closing if Canada doesn't act fast on developing its energy and minerals.

Oliver, who was in Yellowknife for an annual meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts, says a big part of that is building pipelines to bring oil and gas to coastal waters, so it can be exported to lucrative markets.

In a speech, the minister called those projects "nation building" and compared them to big infrastructure projects like the Canadian Pacific Railway and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

He says the long-dormant Mackenzie Gas Project in the Northwest Territories is a classic example of a project that could have been a boon to local aboriginal communities, had it not been dragged down by a years-long regulatory process.

By the time the 1,200-kilometre pipeline was approved, burgeoning shale gas resources further south rendered it virtually obsolete.

"When development is deferred, communities suffer from loss of opportunity," said Oliver.

"The Mackenzie gas project represented a tremendous opportunity for aboriginal partners, but the regulatory review took almost a decade to complete. By the time it was done, the opportunity had passed — an irretrievable loss for an entire generation."

Oliver's counterpart in the Northwest Territories, David Ramsay, has been promoting the idea of a "made in the North" pipeline to bring landlocked oil to either the Beaufort Sea or Alaskan port of Valdez — a potential alternative to controversial oil pipeline proposals further south that have faced regulatory delays.