Many of us have been watching what is happening to Canada’s oil industry with a mix of profound worry and growing frustration.

Worry for what this will mean for our families, our communities, and the future development of our region’s natural resources, and frustration that Canada continues to import foreign oil even though British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan all have large oil and gas reserves.

In fact, Canada has one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world. At the end of 2006, Canada’s remaining established reserves amounted to 179 billion barrels and yet, in the first eight months of 2014, total crude oil imports averaged 634 thousand barrels per day. In total, Canada ended up spending $20.2 billion on imported oil in 2014.

Many of us are left wondering why we as a country continue to import a product that we clearly have an abundance of – especially when projects like the Energy East pipeline are proposing to bring western Canadian crude oil to refineries in eastern Canada.

Currently refineries in eastern Canada are not connected by pipeline to western Canada crude oil production. As a result, eastern Canada must import much of their crude oil at higher global crude prices than Canada receives for its exports.

This means, for example, that in 2010, most of eastern Canada’s oil imports came from the countries like Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Angola, Iraq and Venezuela, regions that have been known for having corrupt governments and ongoing human rights abuses.

Should projects like the Energy East pipeline receive approval, it would mean provinces like Quebec could step away from costly foreign oil imports, and instead support our own domestic oil industries – an industry that desperately needs our support.

Unfortunately, a new level of uncertainty now surrounds the natural resource sector with the announcement of pending changes to the environmental approval process. The Liberal government must announce these changes to the process as soon as possible to help stabilize an industry that is already experiencing so much hardship.

Right now our oil industry is hurting. At the end of 2015, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers projected that Canada would lose 100,000 gross jobs both directly, and indirectly, due to the low price of oil. It is time for all of us to come together as a nation a do what is best for our country and our economy.

I have always said that we need to develop our natural resources responsibly so that we can remove our dependency on foreign oil and increase economic growth throughout Canada. This means improving related infrastructure and finding ways to safely bring our resources to both foreign and domestic markets.

It’s the right thing to do.

Bob Zimmer,
MP for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies

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