The Northwest Territories’ industry minister believes US President Donald Trump’s attitude to trade partners may help reinvigorate oil and gas in the territory’s Mackenzie Valley.

Wally Schumann argues Trump’s aggressive stance on trade tariffs may drive the United States’ trading allies to look elsewhere. When they do, he hopes the NWT can capitalize on the opportunity.

“I think when you look at the geopolitical situation that’s on globally around Mr Trump – in particular the uncertainty he’s causing – I think you are going to see maybe some jurisdictions have a real good look at Canada and how we can export some of our oil and gas out of our territory,” Schumann told Cabin Radio.

Advertisement. Story continues below

“I think the way Mr Trump is going around tariffs and pushing back on the likes of the European Union and China, they’re going to start looking at different markets. You can only p––– off your partners so much before they start looking somewhere else.”

Trump has recently engaged in a range of trade conflicts with nations historically considered American allies, including Canada, and shows no sign of turning down his accompanying rhetoric on the issue.

Oil and gas development in the Mackenzie Valley has been stagnant for years. The territorial government recently released a strategy to kickstart the sector but has admitted its number one customer, for now, may be the territory itself – switching small communities from diesel to natural gas.

‘Real potential’

Schumann made the comments on Thursday while discussing the territory’s preparation of a business case to turn its Mackenzie Valley Highway project into a public-private partnership.

The highway received $100 million in federal funding earlier this week, but the total cost of completing the project is expected to push beyond $700 million. The federal cash will be used to construct a bridge in Tulita, build an access road outside Wrigley, and fund planning for the broader project.

The territorial government believes one of the highway’s benefits, if the whole plan comes to fruition, will be opening up the Mackenzie Valley with a direct road link from Inuvik to the south via Norman Wells and Tulita.

Schumann said the NWT will “have a look” at finding a private partner to help fund the remainder of the project’s price tag.

“Depending on how the industry looks at these recent announcements – and what the potential would be of oil and gas in the area coming back to life – I think there’s a real potential,” he said.

“We as politicians have to do our jobs to promote our territory and the amount of vast resources that we have here, and look at other options – like maybe we need to get these things to markets.”

Schumann said there had been no official contact, as yet, with any corporate partners who may be interested in joining the project.

The territory hopes to receive more federal funding for the highway in future, and is also crossing its fingers for cash from Ottawa for the Slave Geological Province access corridor – another highway project running east of Yellowknife toward Nunavut.

That project was rejected by the federal government at the first time of asking, but Schumann believes a second round of applications could be considered this fall.