First, let me thank the people and Government of Norway for your generous hospitality and warm welcome.
I particularly want to thank Minister Borten Moe for organizing this roundtable. You have performed a valuable public service by bringing government and industry leaders together to learn from each other how best to advance the responsible development of the Arctic’s petroleum resources.
As a government, our number one priority is jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, and Canada’s rich endowment of oil and gas resources in the Arctic must play a role in achieving those objectives.
In 2007 our government launched Canada’s Northern Strategy to seize the opportunities of our Arctic region. The Northern Strategy recognizes that the goals of conservation and sustainability can be balanced with the desire to see greater economic development in the North.
Our government’s Northern Strategy recognizes the opportunities that the North presents, and positions us to seize them. It is built upon four key pillars that will allow us to unlock the North’s potential. They are: exercising our sovereignty; promoting economic and social development; protecting our environmental heritage; and improving and devolving Northern governance.
Canada’s Arctic sovereignty is long-standing, well-established and based on historic title. We continue to exercise our sovereignty through good governance and responsible stewardship, particularly when it comes to the North’s tremendous resource base.
Managed in a sustainable manner, the North’s oil, gas and mineral deposits will create significant opportunities for indigenous peoples and other Northerners. We recognize that Northerners have the same economic aspirations as all Canadians, and that developed responsibly, Northern resources will allow their communities to prosper for many generations, leading to healthier, more self-sufficient communities.
Canada’s Northern governments and Aboriginal groups are open to the investment and employment opportunities generated by oil and gas exploration and development. However, investment and exploration requires a regulatory environment that offers investors certainty and clarity, while ensuring that the public trust is respected.
Since 2006 our government has been working to streamline the review process for major economic projects. While our efforts have made a difference, without any negative environmental impact, more needs to be done.
That is why this year we have undertaken to modernize our regulatory regime. Our plan for Responsible Resource Development will streamline the review process for major economic projects, preventing long delays that inhibit job creation and stall economic growth.
We will do this by: making project reviews more timely and predictable; reducing duplication of project reviews, strengthening environmental protection and by enhancing collaboration with Aboriginal peoples.
We will continue to look for ways to implement a more efficient regulatory regime in the North, too.
But faster and more efficient regulatory regimes are not less effective regimes.
Our government recognizes that effective stewardship of our natural resources is crucial to ensure development occurs in a sustainable manner so that future generations may also benefit from the resources in our North.
The Montara and Macondo tragedies were incidents that raised concerns about offshore drilling safety practices. Canada`s regulator in the Arctic launched a detailed public review process, including industry, northern Aboriginal communities, scientists and others who contributed to the review.
The outcome of the review affirmed that Canada’s North has in place a safe and responsive offshore regulatory regime.
Industry must continue to demonstrate to the regulator and Canadians that their planned activities are adapted to the Arctic environment and include the precautions and prevention plans to operate in a safe manner.
Responsibly developed, Canada`s oil and gas resources can generate jobs and economic growth throughout Canada’s Arctic, which will increase the standard of living and quality of life of Northern residents. In turn, this will lead to healthier, more self-sufficient communities.
Going forward, Canada will continue to collaborate with other Arctic states on common issues through the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum through which we advance our Arctic foreign policy and promote Canadian Northern interests. Together, we are actively engaged in several initiatives, including oil spill prevention, preparedness and response.
Canada will be honoured once again to chair the Arctic Council in 2013. We will fully engage northern governments and the Council’s permanent participants to ensure the circumpolar community is well positioned to address the challenges and opportunities facing Northern regions.
We are confident that our efforts at home and with our international partners will help us find the solutions we all seek.
I look forward to listening to, and learning from, my esteemed colleagues about how this can best be achieved.
Minister John Duncan
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development