CALGARY — The head of Suncor Energy says a meeting between major players in Canada's oilpatch and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was encouraging but there were no assurances on pipelines.
Trudeau, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley took part in a one-hour roundtable with oil and natural gas producers in Calgary on Thursday. They were also to meet with the industry's goods and services providers.
"It was very encouraging just to have a meeting of provincial politician (and) federal politicians that both the premier and the prime minister attended, and to have industry there able to talk about some of the challenges,'' said Williams, president and CEO of Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).
"We clarified some of the challenges in front of us with the price cycle, with market access, and we talked about some potential solutions.''
Williams didn't say what suggestions were put on the table.
"We clarified some of the challenges in front of us."
Also included in the discussion were senior representatives from Shell, Husky Energy (TSX:HSE), Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE), Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ), Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) and Encana (TSX:ECA).
Despite the encouraging tone of the meeting, there were no guarantees about pipeline approvals under new regulations announced by Ottawa last week, Williams said.
"I think assurances is too strong a word. I think what we agreed was that we understood the need for them and we're all going to go away and work towards that end,'' he said.
"What we got today was an understanding of the challenges we face and agreement that we're all going to do what's in the best interests of Alberta and Canada, which is to start to work towards market access for our products.''
Trudeau said he was there to listen.
"I look forward to hearing some of your concerns and some of the ways the federal government can be a better partner in helping you through this difficult time,'' he said.
"I'm glad to be here with Premier Notley, who is very much engaged in this situation.''
"We're all going to do what's in the best interests of Alberta and Canada, which is to start to work towards market access for our products.''
Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said Trudeau was paying close attention.
"We just had a great conversation that talked about the urgency of some of the challenges we're facing and some suggestions were certainly given,'' she said.
"There was no particular ask (from the participants).''
The province's oil sector is looking for strong signals that Trudeau is serious about helping deliver its commodity to coasts where it can be shipped to foreign markets.
A key plank in that plan is Energy East, a controversial pipeline that has drawn the ire of many along its route through Central Canada to the Atlantic coast.
Trudeau has faced pressure from some, including Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, to advocate for the project rather than playing peacemaker between the different sides.
Trudeau has said he wants to let the approval process play out through the National Energy Board.
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