Alfred Sorensen, the president and CEO of Pieridae Energy Ltd., said the country's complicated federal system is the biggest barrier he sees to attracting foreign buyers and investors.
Pieridae Energy is proposing to build an LNG export terminal in Goldboro, N.S., and in 2013 signed a 20-year deal to sell $35 billion worth of gas to Germany.
"My biggest lesson I think I've learned is how difficult it is for people to understand how our country works," Sorensen told a business forum on the liquefied natural gas industry Thursday in Ottawa.
"If there's anything that has to happen between the provinces and the federal government (it) is a much more co-ordinated effort between the different ministries within both the provinces and at the federal level. The message that we send to customers outside our country has to be more consistent."
In a subsequent interview, Sorensen was even more emphatic, saying Ottawa should be at the table with the provinces discussing a national energy plan.
"I think the reluctance of this current government to spend time with the provinces isn't going to be helpful in the long run," said Sorensen.
Provincial governments have been discussing the concept of a national energy strategy since at least 2011. However, the practical details of such a strategy remain elusive.
The federal government said Sorensen's critique is simply wrong.
"I would challenge that assertion," International Trade Minister Ed Fast said in an interview.
In his frequent foreign travels, Fast said he consistently communicates to companies and governments "that Canada is open for business."
Fast said more than 15 LNG projects have been proposed in B.C. alone.
"That indicates there is tremendous interest in investing in Canada and that those companies that have put forward projects clearly see Canada as a safe, stable and predictable place for their investment."
A spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said the minister sits down with his provincial counterparts collectively every summer and also holds more frequent one-on-one meetings.
Sorensen had actually praised Fast's international advocacy during the two-hour panel discussion, but he said the issue is the division of powers that makes resource development a provincial responsibility.
"The thing I see the most is we've got a federal government that's saying, 'We're open for business, show up whenever you want and we're ready to get this thing done tomorrow.' And then the provinces who actually control the resources are 'Whoa! Whoa Whoa! Not so fast.'"
"That's probably the hardest thing for customers to understand," Sorensen told the audience at a downtown Ottawa hotel.
— With files from Andy Blatchford
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