Canadian Manufacturing

Premier Wynne cozies up to Alberta during first official visit

Ontario's Premier made sure she set a different tone than that of her predecessor on her first official visit to Alberta



CALGARY—Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says what’s good for Alberta’s oil and gas industry is good for her province too.

“Oil and gas are clearly fundamental to Alberta’s economy and to Canada’s but also to Ontario’s, and I want everyone to know that I understand that and I want to advance that,” Wynne told a corporate crowd in Calgary.

“Many of our Ontario manufacturers now directly support your industry. I want us to build on that relationship.”

Wynne set a different tone than that of her predecessor on her first official visit to Alberta since she became premier of Canada’s most populous province in January.

Dalton McGuinty drew Alberta’s scorn last year when he said the oil and gas industry was driving up the loonie and making it more difficult for Ontario manufacturers to export their goods. He later softened his stance.

Wynne also made it clear that Alberta Premier Alison Redford has an ally in her push for a Canadian energy strategy, naming that effort one of her top priorities as chair of the Council of the Federation.

“Together Ontario and Alberta will play a key role in helping us to get there,:” said Wynne.

The debate over oil pipelines is heating up in Ontario. There are two major proposals in the works to ship Alberta crude through the province to eastern refineries and export points.

In her remarks, Wynne acknowledged the importance of Alberta getting its resources to market in many ways, including via Ontario, but stressed the need for strong environmental oversight and First Nations consultation.

At hearings this month, many expressed concern over Enbridge Inc.’s proposal to reverse the flow of its existing Line 9 oil pipeline between southwestern Ontario and Montreal and pump more Alberta crude through it.

TransCanada Corp. is planning a much bigger project to bring more than one million barrels of western crude a day as far east as Saint John, N.B. That proposal involves converting part of its existing Alberta-to-Quebec natural gas mainline and building 1,400 kilometres of new pipe to the East Coast.

Wynne told reporters after her speech that enabling Canadian crude to move across the country is in Ontario’s “best interest,” but said she understands concerns over safety.

“There will be challenges ahead. I am not naive to the reality that there will be many voices,” she said.

Unlike British Columbia, Wynne said Ontario isn’t making demands that it get a slice of the pipelines’ economic benefit through royalty revenues or another means.

In the past, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford have clashed over that question, though they’ve since taken a more conciliatory tone. The B.C. and Alberta premiers are to meet in Vancouver next month to discuss oil export projects.

Wynne also tackled an issue on which Ontario and Alberta disagree: the formation of a national securities regulator.

Ontario, B.C. and the federal government recently announced plans to co-operate on regulating Canada’s investment industry, which Wynne says will make capital markets more efficient and effective.

Alberta and Quebec have opposed any federal efforts to unify Canada’s 13 separate securities regulators.

Wynne also said there’s room for provinces to collaborate on improving the Canada Pension Plan so an aging population can support itself in retirement. She would also like to work together on a national strategy to invest in infrastructure.

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