Premiers focus on energy
No agreement on national strategy yet
The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says progress has been made on a national energy strategy, but talks among Canada’s premiers will continue for at least another day.
Paul Davis spoke today after the first full day of the Council of Federation meeting in St. John’s, N.L., and said no deal has been reached yet.
Agreement on an energy strategy was top of mind going into the meeting for many of Canada’s national leaders, who are now working through regional differences.
Davis said earlier in the day that it’s more important to get a national energy strategy right than to get it done quickly.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall offered a vocal defence of the oil and gas sectors as he arrived for the meeting of provincial and territorial leaders.
He says he’s concerned that energy resources are increasingly viewed as a liability in some parts of the country.
“This energy strategy mentions oil, but it’s almost in passing,” he said of an early draft of a document premiers had said they would hammer out before this summer’s meeting.
“It’s almost like we’ve become embarrassed that we have this energy asset and we ought not to be because on the strength of developing that asset, we have funded innumerable social programs. We have created strong economies.”
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.
“We are an energy province and my job is to make sure that we can grow prosperity in Alberta as well as across the country, and so we’re going to continue to do that,” she told re- porters Wednesday. “But there’s no question that our new government does see that there’s a close tie between environmental record, a good strong integrity there, in order to establish more access to markets.”
All premiers are free to express their opinions, Davis said when asked if Wall’s outspokenness was stalling progress.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil called Wall a “great partner” and said it’s important for all provinces to take a national view on how to best move resources across Canada and to in- ternational buyers.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said he’s optimistic the premiers can agree on a national plan that will set guidelines for new projects, such as the proposed Energy East pipeline while also protecting the environment.
“Energy’s an important part of our Canadian economy,” he said. “It’s an important part of the New Brunswick economy and we need it to be helping us, we need it to be growing if we’re going to create jobs and grow the economy from coast to coast to coast.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis (left) walks with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall at the summer meeting of Canada’s premiers in St. John’s Thursday.