Trudeau says he will succeed on energy where his father and Stephen Harper failed

Justin Trudeau. Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his speech to the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas to say he will succeed on the energy file where his father and former prime minister Stephen Harper failed.

Trudeau said the National Energy Program hurt both growth and jobs while the Conservatives failed to understand that the economy and climate change are linked.

"Our immediate predecessors tried a different route for 10 years, to ignore the environment. It didn't work, any more than the NEP of the 1980s worked. They couldn't move forward on big energy projects," Trudeau said.

Trudeau was at the conference to give the keynote address and to accept the CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award for his efforts to balance the economy with the environment in his government's policy prescriptions.

Touting his government's approval of new pipelines, and the Liberal's national plan to put a price on carbon, which were achieved at the same time, Trudeau said his government had achieved some good first steps at growing the economy and protecting the environment — but that more work still needs to be done.

"But it is a clear new path for our country, after years of false starts," Trudeau said.

The CERAWeek conference, organized by international financial services firm IHS Markit, is an annual event that brings in energy executives, politicians, clean tech companies and policy makers from 60 countries to talk about key issues facing the global energy industry. The topics up for discussion include everything from oil and gas to renewables.

More than 3,500 delegates and 300 members of the media are attending the five-day conference.

Supplying energy to the U.S. 

He also noted that while his government is concerned with climate change, the oilsands would continue to be developed.

"No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil and just leave it in the ground," he said. "The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably."

Trudeau reminded the audience about the trading relationship between the U.S. and Canada and the state of Texas with Canada describing Canada, U.S. relations as essential for the prosperity of both nations.

"Nothing is more essential to the U.S. economy than access to a secure, reliable source of energy. Canada is that source," Trudeau said. "We have the third largest oil reserves in the world, and provide more than 40 per cent of America's imported crude."

"And this extends beyond oil: We supply you with more electricity and uranium than any other country."

At the end of the speech Trudeau received a standing ovation from the 1,200 people in the packed room, several of whom commented to CBC News that such a warm reception for a key note speaker was out of the ordinary for the event. 

Globalization

After his speech Trudeau and Daniel Yergin, the Vice Chairman of, IHS Markit and Chairman of the CERAWeek conference, sat with the prime minister on the stage for an informal question and answer discussion. 

Yergin began the session by trying to get some kind of reaction from Trudeau over his recent trip to Washington D.C. to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. 

"How did the visit go?" Yergin asked, prompting the crowd to launch into a bout of laughter and cheers.

Trudeau smiled at his shoes, shrugged as the giggles persisted, before raising his head and saying: "We're Canadian, we get along with everybody."

The prime minister was also asked to explain how the Liberal government has been able to maintain a free trade stance in a world that is increasingly turning its back on globalization. 

Trudeau explained that while free trade has helped to grow the world's economies, some people had been left behind. He said that rather than be protectionist, the way his government dealt with that sentiment was by singing the virtues of trade while at the same time trying to mitigate some of the negative side effects with training and social programs.

"The middle class...weren't getting their fair share of that growth and they are starting to pull their support away from pro- growth policies," he said.

"And people are able to notice those fears, and amplify those fears, and point fingers and say 'well we are going to close off then, we are going close in and hunker down and protect each other' which sounds like a good idea but we know it's not."