Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr launched a national discussion on Canada’s energy future in Winnipeg Friday.
The conversation is called Generation Energy and will be conducted through social media and academic papers before culminating in a conference here in October.
"What does Canada’s energy future look like, and how do we get there?" Carr asked at the kickoff inside Manitoba Hydro’s Portage Avenue headquarters.
He said that everything is on the table, nothing is ruled out and he urged Canadians to let loose their imaginations and show "a willingness to generate big ideas."
"We’re seeing more electric vehicles on the road, more wind farms," he said.
If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides to keep Carr in his current job, he’ll serve as the G7 nations’ energy chair next year.
"Canada can lead the world in innovation," he said.
Carr said that he’s talked to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry about Canada’s ability to provide renewable energy through electricity exports.
Manitoba Hydro, which has warned the province that the Keeyask and Bipole III megaprojects will almost double its debt to $25 billion, is reducing 900 jobs to save $98 million a year and is expected to apply for double-digit rate increases. It has also asked the provincial government for billions of dollars in cash.
"Hydro’s part of the discussion — it’s only a part," Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Kelvin Shepherd said after listening to Carr. "The energy industry is pretty diverse. Not much of the greenhouse gases, essentially none, comes from electricity... simply saying we’ll have electric cars isn’t the solution."
The oilsands, natural gas and nuclear power are all major components of Canada’s energy industry, he said.
"Our infrastructure will take longer than (one generation) to adapt," he said, adding "it’s not practical" to believe fossil fuels will be replaced entirely within 20 years.
Natural gas producers believe they will continue to have an important role to play, he said.
Whatever Canada does with energy, it must be affordable and the country must be able to compete globally, he said.
Andrea Kraj, president of Winnipeg’s Core Renewable Energy, asked Carr how companies such as hers can be involved.
"How do we get to 100 per cent renewable?" she wanted to know.
"The driver will be investment in the private sector," Carr replied.
Cheryl Cardinal, CEO of Indigenous Centre for Energy, said the county’s 634 First Nations have to be included in whatever energy sources Canada pursues.
Aisha Bukhari, an engineer and member of the women in renewable energy advisory committee, called Carr’s initiative "a great nation-building exercise."
However, it can’t just be a debate between having the oilsands or stopping climate change, she said.
"It’s not an either-or situation."
Further information about taking part in the national dialogue is at generationenergy.ca.