Canada: An energy economy, it's about working together

By: Paul Wells

Article originally published in the Daily Oil Bulletin on July 17, 2015, and can be found here: http://www.dailyoilbulletin.com/article/2015/7/17/premiers-adopt-canadian-energy-strategy/ 

There was unanimous agreement today by all of Canada’s provincial and territorial governments to a new Canadian Energy Strategy.
And while there was heated debate earlier this week at the annual premiers’ conference in St. John's, Newfoundland, provincial leaders eventually found enough common ground to release the strategy this morning.
“I think it’s very fair to say we’ve had a very frank exchange of views, we’ve had healthy discussions but we continue to work together to achieve an end,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis said.
“The premiers have finalized a Canadian Energy Strategy. This strategy demonstrates our commitment to working together on energy priorities which will help strengthen our economy and support a new era of energy partnerships in Canada.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the strategy lays out a framework that is important as the provinces go forward with discussions about infrastructure, most notably pipelines.
“What the strategy does overall … [is] underlines the importance of the energy industry to the Canadian economy as a whole. It recognizes that Alberta and every province is the constitutional owner and manager of these natural resources and it acknowledges that at this time that over 280,000 Canadians are employed directly in the energy industry,” she said.
“And it notes the need to develop new markets and to invest in new innovation and technology, and it understands that this needs to be done as we seek the overarching objective to contribute to the Canadian economy. Concurrently, it talks about our obligations to develop the industry and resources responsibly.”
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said the energy strategy commits all provinces to recognize that as an energy economy, Canada needs to develop its natural resources if “we want to prosper as a country and create jobs.”
“Second, we need to do it in an environmentally sound way. Otherwise we’re not going to be allowed to do it by the citizens of this country,” she said.
Clark added that the energy strategy is “clear in supporting” the five conditions her province has set for future pipeline development to the West Coast.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who yesterday voiced criticism over the strategy, said he eventually signed on as improvements were made in the document about Canada being energy self sufficient. 
"Our country, notwithstanding the vast oil reserves that we have ... continues to import oil from other countries. That just seems odd to me. We ought to use our own oil and add value to it here and export to markets other than the United States. We've got one customer for our products right now," he said. 
A goal of the strategy is to "ensure that regional, Canadian, and international infrastructure exists for the transportation and transmission of energy products to domestic and international markets. 
Environmental groups were not pleased by the new strategy. 
"The energy strategy released today by provincial premiers is a big step backwards," said Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence.
"By lending support to pipelines, the strategy will put Canada further out of step with the rest of the world where climate change is being treated as a serious matter. We in Canada need to come to grips with the fact that it's practically impossible to grow the tar sands and reduce carbon pollution."
In short, the strategy:
  • underlines the strategic importance of the energy industry to the Canadian economy ("The energy sector has been a primary driver of Canada's economy for many decades" are the first words in the document);
  • recognizes that Alberta and other provinces are the "constitutional owners and managers" of Canada's natural resources;
  • reports that more than 280,000 Canadians are directly employed in the energy industry;
  • notes the need to open and develop new markets, and to invest in new innovation and technology, if Canada's current energy industry is to continue make its contribution to the national economy; and,
  • concurrently underlines the need for Canada to effectively and comprehensively address climate change. 

The document also says energy development contributes billions of dollars in revenue to federal, provincial and territorial governments. These revenues help fund priority services and programs to Canadians. 

LEADING UP TO TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT

Before arriving at the meeting, Saskatchewan Premier Wall expressed his displeasure about recent talks between Alberta Premier Notley and her Quebec counterpart, Philippe Couillard, regarding the Energy East pipeline.

According to The Canadian Press, they talked about Couillard’s view that climate change policies need to improve for Quebec to get behind Energy East.
“We’ve been contributing mightily to equalization, and I just don’t think this kind of talk is welcome, frankly,” Wall told the Leader-Post. “In terms of a licence ... to build a pipeline, or in this case to simply convert a pipeline to move western Canadian energy across the country, how about $10 billion in equalization? That’s a pretty good licence. How about the massive jobs we’ve created here for all Canadians? That’s also a pretty good licence.”
Alberta’s premier said the document is an important meeting of the minds across Canada about the importance of Canada’s energy industry, including its national infrastructure.
“At the same time, this strategy speaks directly to our province’s new determination to develop our energy economy while making progress to address climate change — a priority Albertans share with Canadians across the country,” Notley said.
She added today’s agreement will provide Alberta with a very helpful and constructive framework for collaborating with jurisdictions across Canada.
“The consensus reached today on what we’re seeking to achieve is the first step towards making real progress.”
On the climate change front, the document outlines a number of goals, including:
  • develop complementary carbon management mechanisms across Canada;
  • foster an understanding by government on the use of market-orientated policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Canada; and,
  • actively pursue greenhouse gas emissions reductions with targets based on sound science.

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