Rickford takes over natural resources portfolio

Who is Greg Rickford and where is Kenora?

Canada’s new Minister of Natural Resources isn’t a household name like some of his cabinet colleagues, but that is about to change.

Greg Rickford, MP for the sleepy cottage town of Kenora located in remote northwestern Ontario, is taking over one of Canada’s most challenging portfolios at a critical time.

Resource development continues to be a key mandate for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Rickford will be expected to toe the Conservative line.

Pipeline decisions abound and Rickford will find himself knee deep in the ongoing controversial files related to Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain and Energy East.

With the sudden resignation of Premier Alison Redford, Canada’s oil industry will be starting from scratch with two new faces.

Rickford doesn’t come to the job completely unprepared. He has worked with mining companies as the minister for economic development in Northern Ontario and worked with First Nations groups as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development.

Canada’s oil patch doesn’t appear to be concerned about Rickford’s appointment.

“Minister Rickford’s diverse education and experience provides a strong base for leadership on responsible development of Canada’s natural resources,” said Janet Annesley, the vice president of communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, via e-mail.

“His past experience in Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Economic Development and Science and Technology are all relevant to the ongoing success of the oil and gas industry.”

This is indeed a critical moment for Canada’s natural resource sector, and Rickford will need to get up to speed quickly.

Annesley sees the appointment as a strong indication the government will stay committed to pursuing responsible resource development.

Rickford’s ability to negotiate with aboriginal groups will be tested as he tackles the pipeline-filled portfolio.

One First Nations leader is looking forward to meeting Rickford. Art Sterritt, the executive director of B.C.’s Coastal First Nations told the CBC that Rickford will need to be “enlightened” quickly about what it takes to develop resources in Canada.

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