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New Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan overseeing hometown Atlantic boom, faced with western bust

Newfoundland MP, Trudeau’s close friend and newly-minted Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan’s empathy for the West was overshadowed by his hometown enthusiasm.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

As TMX pipeline fortunes vacillate and energy industry capital and jobs flee Alberta, Newfoundland MP and newly-minted Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan’s empathy for the West was overshadowed by his hometown enthusiasm.

Asked how being the furthest away from a stalled oil patch and the woes that has created for westerners, the Member of Parliament for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl said he “understand(s) where their head’s at right now… and all I can say is, you know, I will make my case.”

O’Regan then noted “that outside of the line items that I’ve had to deal with the direct responsibilities of the two ministries I’ve held previously, my number one priority has been oil and gas in Newfoundland and in Labrador.”

And compared to Alberta’s withering fortunes, the moving trucks at EnCana’s Calgary headquarters, bound for Colorado after a Halloween re-brand, Atlantic Canada’s offshore exploration boom has already begun.

In April, then-Environment minister Catherine McKenna’s green-lit Equinor’s Flemish Pass project located about 400 kilometres East of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Meanwhile a “public comment” period has expired on a different proposal for the Flemish Passs locale by China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is actually more dependent on oil and gas royalties than Alberta is … but I understand it is not the same industry,” said O’Regan.

Four offshore wells in the Atlantic – Hibernia, Terra Nova (Suncor), White Rose (Husky) and Hebron (Exxon) – already provide job and royalties for the province.

“I’m reminded every day that in Newfoundland and Labrador we get brand (sic) crude prices which today are still about doubled what Alberta gets for its. And you know that’s a very real concern.”

An estimated 120,000 oil patch jobs and related business has vacated Alberta and Saskatchewan since voters gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals their first majority government mandate in 2015.

The failure to construct tidewater transmission lines for Alberta bitumen has kept its market value at below discount rates. Conversely, offshore drilling plays on the Atlantic coast are in the water, heading to sea or sitting on the regulatory launch pad–five in all proposed by  BHP Billiton, BP Canada, and Exxon Mobile.

New Environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson will determine the fate of those projects as McKenna was shuffled to the Infrastructure portfolio.

While neither Saskatchewan or Alberta elected a Liberal MP in #exln43, Trudeau tapped his former Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr–MP for Winnipeg South Centre – as “special representative for the Prairies…(to) ensure that the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have a strong voice in Ottawa.”

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