Canada's Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal is heading to Washington, D.C., with a tough message for U.S. legislators — don't meddle in the marketplace by offering incentives to get the Alaska Highway pipeline built.
"We want to make sure that our position is clear to the people who are going to make the final decisions on the (U.S.) energy bill," he said.
"We believe the private sector should determine the route and that subsidies would be wrong and unacceptable to Canada."
Dhaliwal is scheduled to hold discussions Sept. 9 and 10 with key decision-makers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
After months of arguing that subsidies would distort the free market and undermine gas development in frontier regions of North America, especially the Mackenzie Delta, Dhaliwal has decided to make his case to members of the congressional committee who are resuming work on the final contents of U.S. energy legislation.
He said it is vital for the U.S. legislators to hear his point of view "because, in the end, Canada will make the decision," referring to the portion of the highway pipeline that must cross Canadian territory.
"They need Canada's support to build the Alaska pipeline," said Dhaliwal, who has previously indicated Canada might be ready to delay approvals for the system.
The minister's decision to hold the discussions has been welcomed by Imperial Oil Ltd., the lead partner in the Mackenzie Delta Producers Group.
A spokesman for Imperial, which is 69.6 percent owned by ExxonMobil Corp., told the National Post that pipeline subsidies would be harmful for gas producers across North America.
He said the "proposed subsidy represents a potential intrusion into the marketplace" and has the "capability of negatively impacting a number of producers and not just the Mackenzie gas producers."