It was a Sunday shocker to be sure.
After nearly 10 years of effort to make the proposed Frontier oil sands project a reality, Canadian resources firm Teck announced suddenly it was taking its application for federal approval off the table.
A lot has changed since the application was first submitted.
The company’s application was adapted to keep pace with market realities and to secure buy-in from governments, Indigenous communities, and others.
But, in recent months, the project had also become a lightning rod of sorts.
For some environmental activists and others, it was a line in the sand that, if crossed, would have spelled political trouble for Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberals.
Several members of the Liberal caucus were reportedly pushing hard for Cabinet to kill the project as a final regulatory deadline loomed and as cross-country rail blockades continued.
Teck moved first saying, pointedly, “we are not merely shying away from controversy… It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward.”
In essence: ‘forget the 7,000 jobs, the billions in revenues for public services, the world-leading technology we were ready to put in place to make Frontier one of the cleanest projects of its kind, *AND* the myriad benefits for Indigenous communities. You guys talk it out, and get back to us.’
The Teck twist is the latest in a national conversation that has been taking place for decades.
How best to reap the benefits of Canada’s resource riches while also preparing for the economy of the future?
This was, in fact, as good a project as any to prove to the world that Canada was a good place to invest capital into resource development.
It could also have provided tangible benefits to Indigenous communities and public funds to incentivize economic activities that will be key to Canada’s future prosperity.
Teck’s decision is the result of 40-year thinking. (It can wait.)
Governments – and especially minority governments – are often challenged to think beyond horizons one-tenth that long.
But the issue of sustainable economic growth and using our resources for maximum good should compel deep reflection from all thoughtful Canadians.
We clearly haven’t got it right yet. And if we don’t get there soon, it may be too late. There are only so many Tecks, and very few will be so willing to wait for us to sort ourselves out.
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