Bob McLeod, Northwest Territories Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, said the government’s support of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project remains high, even as optimism in the project has waned elsewhere.
McLeod was in Calgary, Alberta last week for an oil and gas reception and met
with a number of industry players during the two-day visit, including Imperial Oil, Aboriginal Pipeline Group, BP, Conoco Phillips and MGM Energy. With the Joint Review Panel’s oft-delayed report on the proposed pipeline expected by the end of the month, McLeod said he used the trip to reinforce the importance of the project not only to the Northwest Territories, southern provinces like Alberta, Canada and the United States.
“We see the pipeline project as being in the national interests,” he told The Hub on Thursday. “It’s a priority for our government – we’re still a strong supporter and we also wanted it to reinforce the need for the construction to go ahead. And what some of the consequences might be if it didn’t.”
During an evening reception on Dec. 15, McLeod used the Town of Inuvik as an example in a speech.
“It is a town where equipment is idle and silent. It is a town where hotel rooms are empty and coffee shops are closing. It is a town where too many men and women sit idle, too, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the boom to come,” he said during the speech. “The boom was supposed to come with the construction of the Mackenzie Gas Project. But now, on the eve of a new year, optimism in the MGP has waned … but I am here to tell you that while some may have lost their faith in the project, the Government of the Northwest Territories has not.”
McLeod said the future of the proposed pipeline rests on support from the federal government. Jim Prentice, the federal minister responsible for the pipeline, said in January that the government was willing to provide the pipeline proponents with financial support for infrastructure and other associated costs.
During a recent meeting with ministers in Ottawa, McLeod said he was questioned whether the MGP was even needed, due to the shale gas deposits discovered in the United States. McLeod responded by reminding the ministers of the “chorus of northern support” behind the MGP.
With the Government of the United States providing $60 billion in “unequivocal” support for proposed gas pipelines in Alaska, McLeod said the federal government could help level the playing field by stepping up with support for the $16.2-billion MGP, which would create 30,000 person-years of employment, while adding $67.5 billion to the NWT’s GDP, and $1.6 in new tax revenue.
“They think it’s a very good project, they like the jobs and they like the benefits to Alaska and the United States. And, most importantly, they like the long-term supply of natural gas,” McLeod stated. “We said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if Canada and the Prime Minister’s Office would provide a similar level of unequivocal support.'”
With the JRP report set to be released on Dec. 31, McLeod said the next critical deadline is April, when the pipeline’s proponents would be expected to appear for any “b” hearings into the project. Prentice had originally proposed to have the financial support deal in place before the JRP released their report – something that is now unlikely, McLeod said.
“He’s preoccupied with Copenhagen so it’s very unlikely he’ll have the fiscal arrangements in place before Dec. 31,” McLeod said of Prentice. “In an ideal world we were truly and hopefully would have the fiscal arrangements in place by now.”
In October, a report in The National Post suggested the federal government was set to yank its support for the pipeline. McLeod said he hopes the government is not letting the project slip away.
“I guess they want to make sure that they’ll spend the money in the right places, where they see it,” he said. “We think they should be spending it to make sure the Mackenzie Pipeline goes ahead.”