The Harper government says it will end Canadian exports of oil from the Saudi Arabian kingdom and is moving to close a loophole in an agreement to buy oil from that country.
The government says the move will save the government money.
“It’s been the case that the Saudi oil companies are not in a position to pay for Canadian crude oil, and that means we’re going to stop importing that oil,” Environment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa.
“The government of Canada is not in the position to subsidize Saudi Arabia.
So it’s the right decision to make.”
The government said it’s moving to sell its Saudi crude oil to other countries, including Australia and the U.S., which will help lower prices.
Canada’s share of Saudi oil imports rose to 17.5 per cent last year from 16.3 per cent in 2013.
The Harper Conservatives have said they will seek to curb the Saudis oil purchases, but that would require legislation.
Saudi Arabia is Canada’s biggest oil producer, and the country has long maintained an economic relationship with Canada.
But with the economy in the midst of a global recession, the Liberals have repeatedly said they would seek to cut Canadian oil imports, but are still waiting on the results of a recent Royal Dutch Shell investigation into the Saudis purchases.
Last year, the Tories promised to cut oil imports from Saudi by 30 per cent by 2022 and from Saudi’s other allies by 20 per cent.
Mihys office said the government will take the steps outlined in the 2016 Royal Dutch report into Saudi Arabia, but it won’t take them until 2019.
The report said Saudi Arabia’s purchases of Canadian crude and refined products rose to $10 billion last year.
The Liberals said they’d like to see Saudi Arabia pay for its oil purchases.
“While the government has long argued that we should be buying from producers that we are investing in, it now turns out the only way to do that is to cut our own prices and make it more difficult for our oil companies to compete,” Mihies office said in a statement.
The announcement comes as Ottawa seeks to ramp up exports of natural gas, which has been the mainstay of the Canadian economy.
The Conservatives are also looking at selling a stake in an Alberta oil sands company, Energy East, which they say will help reduce Canada’s dependence on foreign oil.
“We’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to tolerate any subsidies from foreign governments,” Environment Canada’s Scott Coleman told reporters.
The oil sands have been in decline for decades, as well as Canada’s reliance on oil from foreign countries.
Alberta is currently selling about 30 per a cent of its oil reserves.