(EnergyAsia, February 27 2013, Wednesday) — Canada must capitalise on its numerous advantages to develop an industry exporting oil and gas to the fast-growing markets of Asia and reduce its traditional dependence on the US, said former Cabinet minister Jim Prentice.

In making this call yet again at a liquefied natural gas (LNG) conference in Vancouver on Monday, Mr Prentice, an ally of Prime Minister Stephen Harper who left government to become vice chairman of Canadian bank CIBC, has emerged as one of the strongest proponents for Canada to pursue closer energy ties with Asia.

In his speech at British Columbia’s first LNG conference, he said Canada has the advantages of having one of the shortest supply routes to Asia, a substantial resource base, supportive governments at the provincial and federal level, and a business-friendly environment that has attracted investments from many global companies.

The province is well positioned to develop a strong LNG industry that will create jobs and an export-focused competitive energy industry with long-term economic benefits for itself and Canada, said Mr Prentice.

“Everything is happening. Progress is being made on essential regulatory issues. Pipeline routes in from the gas fields are taking shape. Competition is mounting. Opportunity is emerging,” he said.

But as its oil industry, Canada must tap into new markets because gas production has declined significantly over the last several years and it should not be dependent on selling to the US.

“We’ve entered a critical period. We face the imperative to match up Canada’s resources with the needs of the Asian marketplace. We must access new and growing markets if we want to reinvigorate this important industry,” he said.

For Canada to build up a successful LNG industry, Mr Prentice said it must have a clear royalty regime, supply of skilled labour, strong environmental, health and safety management, security of electricity supply and understanding of the competitive challenge posed by the emerging gas industry in the US.

“Getting into liquefied natural gas represents a big financial bet,” said Mr Prentice.

“The stakes are high and the challenges are formidable. We need to be confident and aggressive – but we must also ensure that we resolve and bring across the finish line a number of key outstanding issues.”

Earlier this month, Mr Prentice was plain critical of what he calls Canada’s “complacent” attitude in managing its resource wealth.

Lulled by its long dependence on the US markets, he said Canada has failed to play the global energy game with skill, foresight or cohesiveness.