The plan is to reduce regulatory red tape and expand markets
EDMONTON: Canada’s western premiers have thrown their support behind Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s vision of a national strategy to jointly develop, lobby, sell and sustain the country’s energy resources.
Redford told reporters after the wrap-up meeting of the Western Premiers’ Conference that the leaders are setting up a working group of officials to further discuss the strategy in the run-up to the Council of the Federation meeting this summer in Halifax.
“We had an opportunity to discuss a number of areas that are very important to all of us as we move forward in developing our own provincial and territorial economies but also understanding that we truly are an economic powerhouse for Canada,’’ said Redford.
She has been pitching a national energy strategy since taking over as Alberta premier last fall. The plan would see the provinces and the federal government work closer together to reduce regulatory red tape and expand markets for Canada’s energy. They would also develop joint initiatives on research and development and on ways to protect the environment.
Redford met with federal National Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government supports in principle “a collaborative approach to energy development.’’
Critics, including Alberta’s opposition Wildrose party, say it’s time for Redford to get down to specifics so that other regions know what it is they’re being asked to join.
Redford said that will come, but for now getting down to brass tacks would limit the flow of ideas and sidetrack the debate.
“What I hope this becomes is part of a living process in Canada,’’ said Redford.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said regardless of what it achieves, the national strategy would be a success.
“If all that is achieved is a better understanding by all Canadians of the huge energy potential of this country, the fact we are a global energy power and that it’s something we ought to be proud of while recognizing we need to do more in terms of sustainability … it would be worthwhile in its pursuit,’’ said Wall.
The premiers also urged the federal government to fulfil its commitment on devolution of control over land, water and resources to the territories.
“We are very close to having a devolution final agreement,’’ said Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod. “With the tremendous potential we have for resources in the Northwest Territories, we can all work together to maximize the benefits.’’
© 2012 The Canadian Press