By Peter Kennedy
Former media baron Conrad Black warned a Vancouver mining conference about the need to prevent the “victimization” of energy producing provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan.
In a speech to the Cambridge House International Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC) on Sunday, Black touched on a number of other topics, including the political situation in the United States, the impact of climate change on public policy and the virtues of capitalism.
“The only economic system that works is capitalism because it is the only one that is aligned with the universal human desire to have more,” he said.
Black is a controversial figure to be sure. A founder of the National Post daily newspaper, he was once at the helm of a media empire that included English Daily Telegraph, the Post in Jerusalem and the Chicago Sun-Times. He was convicted of felony fraud and obstruction of justice by a U.S. district court in 2007. The charges were later upheld by the country’s Supreme Court. In 2018, he wrote a biography of Donald Trump and was granted a full pardon by the U.S. President in May, 2019
However, the decision to name him as keynote speaker as this year’s VRIC conference was clearly a popular one. Many investors showed up an hour early to hear him give a 35-minute speech without the aid of notes. He later participated in a panel discussion with former Canaccord Financial Chairman Peter Brown and Fraser Institute President Niels Veldhuis.
As Black was asked to speak about the current state of Canada in a natural resources context, it was no surprise to hear him discuss public policy and the impact on the oil and gas sector.
“On the issue of equitable treatment of resource [producing provinces] I think we get a stark F,” he said. “The oppression of Saskatchewan and Alberta in particular is a disgraceful and outrageous thing.”
This was clearly a reference to Canada’s failure to complete major pipeline projects which are required to get domestic oil and gas production to international markets outside of the United States.
Resource industry officials have complained that Federal legislation such as Bill C-69, which aims to overhaul the way that major energy projects are approved in Canada, is actually driving away investment by making it more difficult to get projects like pipelines approved.
He also expressed his view that the collapse of the former Soviet Union has prompted people on the left of the political spectrum to use the environmental movement as a powerful battering ram to attack capitalism.
Black said the current level of alarm surrounding the threat of climate change was unjustified.
“There is no scientific unanimity about climate change, no unanimity at all that it is bad or that it is influenced by what people do,” he said.
Meanwhile, as Trump prepared to face an impeachment trial in Washington, Black reiterated his support for the U.S. President, saying he has had the best first term of any President in history, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
“I think his tax cuts have worked, his regulation has worked. I think his reduction of illegal immigration has worked,” he said. Trump should be praised for standing up to China, Black said.
“He has a good chance of getting re-elected because the Democratic Party contenders are so unimpressive.”
Black also praised publisher Rupert Murdoch. “He has made the Wall Street Journal a great newspaper.”
Meanwhile, with the copper price trading near an eight-month high, investors could be in for a good couple of years, Peter Brown said during the panel discussion. Copper is the metal that will face the most shortages, he said. The forecast came amid speculation that renewed global growth concerns could support safe havens like gold.