In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Freeland said the country needs to take the decision as a turning point for a crucial conversation about the future of resource development in Canada.
“I think we need to treat Teck’s withdrawal as a wake up-call for our country and say, now is the time to do that hard work and actually face up to the fact that it’s a challenge — it’s a real challenge — to reconcile ambitious action on climate change and a strong economy and a strong oil and gas sector,” she said.
“But we can do it and I think now is the moment for us to do that work.”
Teck abandoned its bid to get federal cabinet approval for a proposed oilsands mining project worth roughly $20 billion last week.
Its CEO, Don Lindsay, wrote a public letter outlining the reasons for the decision, saying the company’s application had “surfaced a broader debate over climate change and Canada’s role in addressing it.”
“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. Ultimately, that should take place without a looming regulatory deadline,” he wrote.
The project had been billed by proponents as a litmus test of sorts for whether large-scale natural resource projects — specifically, those in the oil and gas sector — can get built under a government that has made tackling climate change a major part of their political agenda.
Teck’s withdrawal prompted fierce criticism of the government from conservatives across the country who linked the uncertainty around the future of addressing climate change with the government’s handling of three weeks of nationwide blockades.
Those were sparked by activists who declared themselves as acting in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C., who oppose a natural gas pipeline set to be built through their traditional territory with the consent of all elected chiefs from the impacted region.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has faced criticism for not condemning the blockades more quickly.
He only said they needed to come down roughly two weeks after the blockades had intermittently shut down railways, border crossings, roads and access to government buildings across the country.
Freeland said that decision was important.
“That was a crucial moment,” she said of the statement by Trudeau calling for the blockades to come down.
“It was essential for him to say that and since then, what we have been seeing is progress — by no means concluded — but progress in getting the blockades dismantled.”
She said the challenge now must be addressing how to move forward.
“The tensions and the strains are absolutely real and now is the time for us to put our shoulder to the wheel and knit our country together,” she said.
“What I think we need to do now is have a very urgent, very serious conversation between the federal government, the provincial government, the oil sector and indeed, the whole country talking about how do we achieve both of these perspectives.”