Canadian Manufacturing

Premiers close to finalizing national energy strategy

Canada's premiers are meeting in Nova Scotia with the goal of balancing oil and gas development with environmental protection

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—Canada’s premiers have made “significant” progress towards a national energy strategy and a deal could be released June 17, says British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

Clark said the latest draft of an agreement at the Council of the Federation meetings in St. John’s, N.L., balances oil and gas development with environmental protection.

Tension between Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall and other premiers at this week’s meetings appeared to have eased overnight.

Wall, who took an aggressive stance in support of oil and gas development heading into this week’s meetings, sounded a milder tone as he arrived Friday.

The premiers had discussions that led to his marked shift in tone, he said.

“We had a meeting,” Wall told reporters. “And we had some pretty frank discussions. I guess that’s what changed.”

The current draft document acknowledges the value of both renewable and non-renewable resources and he’s hopeful the deal can be finalized, he added.

“Oil is not a four-letter word,” Wall said, noting “vigorous” talks have led to the draft document and acknowledges the value of renewable and non-renewable resources.

Wall took shots at Ontario and Quebec in particular earlier this week, arguing their positions seem to look down on lucrative oil and gas resources while benefiting from the equalization funds they help raise.

Agreement on a national plan to guide future energy projects while also protecting the environment has been on the premiers’ agenda since 2012.

A related vision statement that was discussed at the meeting says the strategy should be “consistent with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” as it “contributes to continued economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians.”

On Thursday, Wall said there’s growing frustration in the West, where the energy industry creates jobs and helps fund equalization transfers from the federal government to less-wealthy provinces.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose NDP government has said it will strike a new course on environmental protection, stressed the need for balance on Thursday.

“I think that many of the premiers have come together to have mature and productive discussions that will meet the interests of all Canadians, both in terms of promoting jobs and economic prosperity as well as respecting everybody’s concerns about environmental responsibility.”

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Canada has a responsibility to act on climate change if it’s to look credible on the world stage.

“Energy in Canada is not only oil and gas, it’s also renewables _ particularly hydroelectricity, in our case,” he said Thursday. “Balance has to be found.

“Our province, with Ontario and B.C., are particularly advanced on that.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she understands the value of the energy sector, but added “we’re running out of time” to deal with climate change.

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