No need for Canadian Energy Strategy, federal minister says

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal September 11, 2012

EDMONTON – The Redford government will continue to press for a Canadian Energy Strategy despite clear signals Tuesday the federal government doesn’t support the plan.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday that Premier Alison Redford’s national strategy is redundant and unnecessary, tacitly aligning the federal government with Alberta’s opposition Wildrose party.

“I’ve asked (Redford) about what she had in mind and I didn’t hear anything that suggested something that we weren’t actually covering,” Oliver said at a news conference Tuesday after a two-day meeting with Canada’s provincial energy ministers in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Oliver acknowledged the need for federal and provincial governments to work together to develop Canada’s energy resources but said Stephen Harper’s Conservative government won’t back a formal strategy.

“If you want to put a bow on it and call it a Canadian Energy Strategy, go ahead. But we’re not applying that labelling to it,” Oliver said.

The idea for a Canadian Energy Strategy was a cornerstone of Redford’s election campaign, and since taking office in April she has been a relentless advocate for the idea.

Her goal in part is to get all the provinces working together to develop Canada’s energy resources. Technically, this means co-ordinated environmental standards, consistent regulations and construction of new pipelines and other needed infrastructure. Practically, Alberta could benefit from increased co-operation and support from other provinces as it develops its oilsands resources.

Redford is currently on a trade mission in China and a spokesperson for her office declined to comment. Energy Minister Ken Hughes was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but a spokesman for his office said the provincial government won’t abandon efforts to secure a national consensus on energy development.

“Our position on the importance of a Canadian Energy Strategy has not changed,” spokesman Mike Deising said in an email. He did not address Oliver’s comments or the impact they might have on Redford’s proposed strategy.

Wildrose energy critic Jason Hale said he is pleased the federal government agrees with his party’s position.

“We are of the same mindset,” Hale said. “A misguided strategy like this leaves the door wide open to provinces that oppose Alberta’s energy sector to have more of a say over our resources.

“Ultimately, Alberta needs to defend and promote our resources the way we see fit.”

Redford has had some success securing support for the strategy.

At Council of the Federation meetings in Halifax earlier this year premiers from across the country expressed support for the idea. After that meeting, Redford started working with premiers from two other provinces to draft a Canadian Energy Strategy “that recognizes regional priorities and areas of expertise.”

That draft will be presented to premiers and territorial leaders at the next Council of the Federations meeting in the spring of 2013.

Oliver said the meetings in Charlottetown included discussions on improving infrastructure, such as the possibility of building pipelines to carry oil and natural gas from Western Canada to markets in Atlantic Canada.

He said the ministers also talked about improving electricity reliability through data sharing and advancing energy efficiency initiatives.

Two months ago, B.C. Premier Christy Clark withdrew her support for the strategy and for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry Alberta crude to the West Coast.

Clark said at the time that B.C. deserves a “fair share” of Alberta’s royalties for taking on the environmental risks associated with the pipeline, a premise Redford rejected.

With files from The Canadian Press

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