Ahead of Newfoundland and Labrador’s upcoming provincial election on May 16, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie held a news conference in St. John where a Senate committee holding a public hearing into the controversial Bill C-69. Mr. Crosbie said if elected, he will sue the federal government, saying “Our offshore, and the jobs and the prosperity and the hopes that represents to us here in the province, are being invaded by the Trudeau federal government and his tame lapdog, [Liberal Premier] Dwight Ball."
Mr. Crosbie accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government of trying to kill the oil industry with layers of bureaucracy and over-regulation that will eventually force oil companies to take their investment elsewhere. He referred to Bill C-69 as the "no more offshore bill" and asserted PM Trudeau and his government "don't believe in petroleum." The proposed Bill C-69 has alarmed the natural resources sector, including Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil and gas industry. The fear is the approval process will entail unreasonable delays and choke off development in the offshore.
"I will fight back against this invasion of our power under the Atlantic Accord by every lawful means, including court action if necessary," Mr. Crosbie said. The Atlantic Accord guarantees the province will be the principal beneficiary of its oil and gas resource through mirror legislation at the federal and provincial levels. Among Mr. Crosbie’s priorities is to also stop the federally-imposed carbon tax.
Mr. Crosbie said the approval process for exploration permitting has increased from 9 months to 33 months and the province's oil and gas industry association has produced a report showing that the approval process is "seven to eight times longer" in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador than it is in countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia.
When the mainstream news media asked him about the environmental threat posed by the petroleum industry, Mr. Crosbie described the light, sweet crude produced in the offshore as "ethical oil" that produces 30 to 50 percent less carbon that the world average. "The world will need oil for decades to come. It should be our oil," he said, "We can let Saudi Arabia supply this oil, or we can do it ourselves to develop our economy, to create jobs and prosperity right here at home and develop a sustainable economy for the post-oil economy that's coming decades down the road."
Mr. Crosbie became Leader of the PC party in 2018 after signing up 11,000 new members in the province of 536,000. In his victory speech, he said, "At this crossroads, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be tested to decide whether we become a financial ward of the federal state under the failing Dwight Ball Liberals, or continue in Confederation as a proudly independent and sovereign province under a Ches Crosbie PC government." His father is John Crosbie, a former Lieutenant Governor and provincial and federal Cabinet Minister for former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
If he wins the election on May 16, Mr. Crosbie faces mounting debt, most of which was added over the past 12 years primarily due to the ballooning cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.