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NDP wants Suncor CEO to tell MPs why company moving away from focus on clean energy

NDP MP Charlie Angus will ask the natural resources committee to summon the CEO of oilsands giant Suncor when the House of Commons resumes next week.

NDP MP Charlie Angus will ask the natural resources committee to summon the CEO of oilsands giant Suncor when the House of Commons resumes next week.

Angus said CEO Rich Kruger has a lot of explaining to over his remarks to investors on a conference call in August.

Kruger, who took over as Suncor CEO in April, said the company had a “disproportionate” focus on the longer-term energy transition to low-emitting and renewable fuels. He said it needed to revise its direction toward the immediate financial opportunities in the oilsands.

“Today, we win by creating value through our large integrated asset base underpinned by oilsands,” he said on Aug. 15.

Last year, before Kruger took over, Suncor sold off its solar and wind power assets, and expanded its fossil fuel assets by purchasing a new oilsands mine.

Angus, who is the NDP critic for natural resources, called Kruger’s comments “shocking” and “irresponsible.”

“We’ve had thousands of people displaced, millions of hectares of forest destroyed, large sections of North America covered in toxic smoke, and as everyone was talking about the urgency of dealing with this, we have Mr. Kruger saying the only urgency he sees is making as much money as possible,” Angus said in an interview Monday.

Angus said Kruger needs “to come and explain why they’re refusing to accept responsibility or even to take up a role that can reassure Canadians that they have our best interests or any of our interests at heart.”

Angus first needs to get the motion on the agenda of the committee, which has not yet set a date for its next meeting. He will then need the support of at least five other committee members for the motion to pass.

Liberal MP and committee member Julie Dabrusin said she needs to discuss the motion with her colleagues before deciding whether to support it, but does feel companies need to show how they will make climate change action a priority.

“Oil and gas is the largest emitting sector in the country and meaningful action to decarbonize is a necessity to reach net-zero by 2050,” she said in a written statement.

“The CEOs of Canada’s largest emitters must clearly outline how climate change is an economic and environmental priority and be clear with Canadians what efforts they are taking to decarbonize and meet the goals they have committed to.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault won’t get a vote but has already publicly criticized Kruger’s comments.

In an interview with The Canadian Press during last month’s Liberal cabinet retreat in Charlottetown, Guilbeault said an oilsands company retreating from clean energy investments proves why the government needs to regulate climate action in the industry.

“To see the leader of a great Canadian company say that he is basically disengaging from climate change and sustainability, that he’s going to focus on short-term profit, it’s all the wrong answers,” Guilbeault said on Aug. 22.

“If I was convinced before that we needed to do regulation, I am even more convinced now.”

Later this fall he intends to publish draft regulations setting a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from the oil and gas industry that will be lowered over time. Companies that exceed the cap will face financial penalties, such as through buying credits from companies that cut their emissions below their capped amount.

The government has not yet said where the cap will be set but the Emissions Reduction Plan seeks about a 40 per cent reduction in emissions from oil and gas production by 2030.

The Pathways Alliance, a consortium of oilsands companies working together to install emissions trapping technology known as carbon capture and storage, has said that is an unrealistic goal.

Oil and gas contributed 28 per cent of Canada’s total emissions in 2021, and the oilsands alone account for 13 per cent.

Suncor contributed 17.4 million tonnes, or 2.5 per cent of the national total. Suncor’s emissions in 2021 were 50 per cent higher than they were in 2011. Canada’s total emissions have fallen six per cent compared with 10 years ago.

Suncor is part of the Pathways Alliance and Kruger said Suncor remains committed to that project.

Suncor did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.