CALGARY — An oil and gas industry representative says Canada is "falling behind" the U.S. and other nations in developing its rich Arctic natural resources because of a five-year moratorium on offshore drilling in the North put in place in 2016.
But Northern Affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc defends the ban as a necessary device to ensure the resource is developed in a way that is environmentally sensitive, allows Indigenous input and is based on science.
The debate touched off in 2016 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-U.S. president Barack Obama announced offshore Arctic development restrictions is being revisited at the Arctic Oil & Gas Symposium in Calgary.
Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada and Arctic director for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says recent moves by the U.S. under President Donald Trump to reopen the Alaskan Arctic to drilling illustrate Canada's "lost opportunities."
He says the ban on development creates uncertainty in the market and means Canada isn't able to compete for investment dollars for Arctic drilling or related research, despite ongoing Arctic development by nations such as Norway and Russia.
But LeBlanc says Ottawa is using its time to consult with northern people, governments and industry and come up with a science-based report to inform its review of the moratorium in 2021.
"Done properly, oil and gas development can bring growth and prosperity to a region that in some cases may have been overlooked for a long time," said LeBlanc.
"However, the development ... must be done properly with the full support of scientific data and research."