Tag Archives: Canadian Energy Strategy

Alberta PIpelines

Notley strikes a collaborative tone in Canada’s pipeline debate

This week’s Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland marked Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s first appearance on the national stage since the NDP won a stunning victory in the May 5, 2015 provincial election. The new premier used the meeting to strike a more collaborative tone than her Conservative predecessors, who sometimes appeared more interested in chest-thumping than negotiating with their counterparts from other provinces.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

Taking a different approach raised the ire of one of Ms. Notley’s staunchest conservative critics, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. Mr. Wall lashed out against Ms. Notley for her willingness to negotiate with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard over the TransCanada corporation’s Energy East pipeline.

Three weeks ago, Mr. Couillard told reporters that he saw little economic value for his province from the Energy East pipeline. He was not alone in this opinion. Two-thirds of Quebecois are opposed to that pipeline, according to one poll released in late 2014. This opposition is likely the reason why Mr. Couillard laid out some potential conditions related to climate change and environmental issues in exchange for his support of the pipeline going through his province.

Brad Wall

Brad Wall

Mr. Couillard may have opposed the pipeline without a compromise and may still oppose it, but Ms. Notley has succeeded in keeping the dialogue open.

Like every other premier sitting around the table at this week’s meeting, Ms. Notley, Mr. Couillard and Mr. Wall have their own political agendas in mind.

While conservatives have fallen over themselves praising Mr. Wall as a voice for Canada’s oil industry, we should not believe for a moment that he has Alberta’s best interests in mind. In the days after Albertans elected Ms. Notley’s government on May 5, Mr. Wall and his ministers were inviting the oil industry to abandon Alberta and move east to Saskatchewan.

If you believe Mr. Wall that compromise on national issues is not acceptable, remember that he has asked the rest of Canada for concessions in the past, most recently when Saskatchewan agreed to sign on to the National Securities Regulator in 2014.

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

The premiers signed on to a Canadian Energy Strategy, which could be an important first step in national cooperation but does not approve pipelines or targets to reduce carbon emissions. As long as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal Conservative government refuse to participate in these meetings, there is only so much that can be achieved.

What is clear is that previous strategies used by Alberta premiers to promote expansion of pipelines from Alberta’s oilsands has fallen flat. And with this week’s major oil pipeline leak in northern Alberta, critics and opponents of pipeline expansion to change their minds without assurances of stricter environmental regulations.

Compromise and negotiation should be part of politics in any democratic country. On any controversial projects, like cross-Canada pipeline expansion, it should be expected that local political realities in provinces and First Nations will slow, or block, attempts to force through industrial projects.

Alberta’s poor environmental record has helped fuel opposition to the oilsands and the proposed pipelines that would carry our natural resources to ports in all directions. Our province’s status as a national laggard on environmental issues is a big reason Ms. Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced last month that University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach would lead a panel to recommend a new climate change plan for Alberta.

With a new government, Alberta has an opportunity to show our critics, through collaboration, negotiation and action, that strong leadership on economic and environmental issues are not mutually exclusive. That would be a refreshing change.

First NDP Throne Speech on message. McIver Tories totally tone deaf in opposition.

The NDP throne speech was predictable and on message

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

The first Speech from the Throne of Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley‘s administration included many of the key promises made during the recent provincial election.

The 604,515 Albertans who voted NDP should be pleased that the new government is following through with its promises to end corporate and union donations, increase corporate taxes from 10% to 12%, create a more progressive income tax system, and temporarily restore funding to health care, education and human services that was cut by the previous Progressive Conservative government.

The speech also signalled that the NDP will not rush haphazardly into a review of Alberta’s natural resource royalties, which was a key promise during the election. Despite the increasingly bizarre arguments being published in conservative newspapers, Ms. Notley is smart to take a careful and calm approach to ensuring that Albertans are receiving the best value for their natural resources.

One of the NDP’s largest challenges during this spring sitting of the Legislature falls upon Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who will be responsible for shepherding the Interim Supply Bill that will allow the government to continue operating until a new budget is introduced later in 2015.

Tories tone deaf on corporate donations

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

From their new home in the opposition benches, the message from PC interim leader Ric McIver against banning corporate donations was incredibly tone deaf. Mr. McIver’s opposition to the ban is not ideological (the Wildrose Party supports the ban) but purely practical. The PC Party relies heavily upon corporate donors for the large majority of its donations, unlike the NDP and Wildrose parties which have cultivated a large individual donor base.

A report released by the Parkland Institute last week showed that the PC Party received more than $630,000 from corporate donors during the first three-months of 2015, compared to $151,000 in individual donations of $251 or over.

During the recent election, PC leader Jim Prentice faced harsh criticism for refusing to raise corporate tax in the provincial budget while personal income taxes and many fees were increased. Culminating with a disastrous press conference held by four CEOs supporting the PCs, the corporate taxes issue led many Albertans to believe that the PCs were protecting their major donors rather than the best interests of the province.

Canadian Energy Strategy

Shannon Phillips

Shannon Phillips

Perhaps signalling that Alberta will once again seek an important role on the national stage, the throne speech alluded to plans to  “forge a much stronger partnership with our fellow provinces and with the federal government, in order to build a Canadian Energy Strategy.”

A new approach to energy cooperation on the national stage, which could include increased support for the proposed TransCanada Energy East Pipeline, along with a new climate change strategy promised by Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, could lead to Alberta being a more involved player at the July 15-17, 2015 Council of the Federation meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Reaching out to opposition parties, setting a new tone

Marking a clear break from the previous PC government, Ms. Notley reached out to the opposition parties in the first day of the new legislative session, announcing the formation of two new multi-party committees.

Lesser Slave Lake NDP MLA Danielle Larivee, a Registered Nurse, and Calgary-Mountain View Liberal MLA David Swann, a physician, will co-chair a mental health review committee. And Ms. Notley announced that she and Wildrose leader Brian Jean will cooperate in the creation of a special legislative committee composed of nine government MLAs and eight opposition MLAs that will “review Alberta’s elections, whisteblower and conflict of interest legislation” (they should look at banning corporate and union donations in municipal elections as well).