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OTTAWA — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is calling on Ottawa to show greater leadership in getting Canada’s natural resources to world markets, warning this country needs a federal persuader-in-chief to secure support for major projects or risk being outmanoeuvred by foreign rivals.
He said uncertainty over major resource projects is hurting Canada. “Put simply, we cannot market our resources globally if we don’t have the infrastructure, political and industrial, to deliver them to market,” he said.
Mr. Mulroney did not criticize Prime Minister Stephen Harper directly in a speech Tuesday evening to an Ottawa audience that included federal ministers such as John Baird, who introduced the former prime minister, and Peter MacKay, whose father served in Mr. Mulroney’s cabinet. But he argued forcefully that federal leadership should take a more hands-on role in urging major players to support the construction of necessary infrastructure, from pipelines to liquefied natural gas facilities.
He called on Ottawa to create a resource development office, similar to the Trade Negotiations Office he used to build support for both the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and then the North American free trade deal.
Central to his message was that the federal government needs to take a different approach to convincing affected Canadians of the need for major resource projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline and selling the U.S. government on the case for approving the Keystone XL pipeline project that would ship Alberta oil-sands crude to Texas. He quipped, in a comment directed to the U.S.’s new ambassador to Ottawa, who presented his credentials to the Governor-General earlier Tuesday, that “we fully expect, Mr. Ambassador, for that pipeline to be approved.” With that, the audience erupted into applause and shouts of “Hear! Hear!”
“Leadership does not consist of imposing unpopular ideas on the public but of making unpopular ideas acceptable to the nation,” Mr. Mulroney said later. “This requires a very solid argument for change and a very strong ability to make that argument over and over again.”
Mr. Mulroney singled out the support of aboriginal groups as crucial, warning the federal government that there would be “no powerful explosion of development in our energy sector” without winning over native Canadians, affected provinces and environmental advocates. In this, he echoed comments by former Harper industry minister Jim Prentice.
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