One project, one review 

May 29, 2012

By: Dave Collyer
Financial Post

Improving the regulatory review process for major natural resource development projects will help attract investment required by the oil and natural gas industry - and other industries large and small - to create Canadian jobs, economic growth and energy security in an increasingly competitive world. 

Eliminating redundant and inefficient regulatory processes, and focusing on higher potential impact projects, will improve our international competitiveness. These longoverdue changes will improve our business climate without compromising Canada's strong record of responsible development and environmental performance. 

Contrary to assertions by some interest groups, maintaining the current system would provide neither more accountability nor better environmental performance. More regulation is not necessarily better regulation; in fact, it's usually quite the opposite. We need clarity in policy and an efficient, predictable process implemented by effective regulatory bodies. A complex, duplicative and indeterminate process often leads to project delays and cost escalation, or outright cancellations due to missed market opportunities. It only obfuscates the desired outcome and is not in the public interest. 

In Canada, we are very fortunate to have abundant natural resources - enough to meet our needs for decades, provide reliable and secure supply to other countries, create well-paid and highly skilled jobs and contribute significantly to Canada's public accounts. Canada's governments own our country's oil and gas resources and make the rules regarding their development - rules for operations, environment, royalties, taxation and exports. There is comprehensive and robust policy and regulatory oversight of the oil and gas industry from production through to consumption. And this will continue to be the case. We want to continue to improve the environmental and social performance of our industry, and we also recognize the need to grow our economy and create jobs by building on our competitive strengths. 

The goal of policymakers and regulators should be "one project, one review" in a defined time period using a predictable process. The goal is not to cut corners on environmental outcomes or to turn a deaf ear to the views of legitimate stakeholders. Responsible resource development means continued thorough environmental review of projects with larger potential impacts and enhanced consultation with aboriginal groups. It also means the views of local interests must be considered in the context of the broader public interest. Not rocket science, not subterfuge, just clarity and common sense. 

People expect their political leaders, industry and environmental advocates to find ways to provide products, jobs, tax revenues and environmental protection. They don't believe these are incompatible - and neither do we. Responsible resource development is in the interests of Canadians who use energy and depend on a growing, competitive economy, jobs and a healthy environment to provide for their families. Our high standard of environmental performance and consultation with stakeholders affected by development must be maintained. We understand this is what the Canadian public expects and we share those expectations - it is the right thing to do. 

The resource sector, including oil and gas, is driving economic growth in Canada. The "upstream" oil and natural gas industry, the largest private-sector investor group in Canada, invests more than $50-billion each year and employs more than 500,000 people. Our members find and develop more than 90% of Canada's petroleum resources. 

But capital can and does move quickly among the world's investment markets and our current regulatory system is an impediment to attracting and retaining investment capital. It is clearly in Canada's best interest to make the changes required to be competitive with other jurisdictions and to enable responsible resource development that benefits all Canadians. 

We must continue to grow our resource sector to provide jobs, economic growth and revenue to Canadian governments. We will continue to do this responsibly and with a commitment to performance improvement, under environmental policy and regulation that will be more efficient and more effective following implementation of these changes. Canadians can be confident the policy and regulatory system will continue to deliver the robust, transparent environmental oversight that we all expect - and environmental outcomes that compare very favourably with those of other countries. 

We look forward to less, but better, process. And we strongly encourage federal-provincial co-ordination to improve the regulatory system and the related aboriginal consultation process. The outcome will be more jobs, a stronger economy and responsible environmental performance for the benefit of all Canadians. 

Dave Collyer is president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.