Review by Jaime Watt
Jim Prentice with Jean-Sébastien Rioux Triple Crown: Winning Canada’s Energy Future. Toronto, HarperCollins, 2017.
Triple Crown: Winning Canada’s Energy Future By Jim Prentice with Jean-Sébastien Rioux
It would be challenging for any reasonable Canadian—Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat or Green—to read the late Jim Prentice’s book Triple Crown: Winning Canada’s Energy Future, and find a significant objection to his central argument.
This non-partisan, policy-driven, thoughtfully crafted and emotionally charged manifesto by Alberta’s former premier and federal Conservative cabinet minister clearly and elegantly posits that Canada should be the country the world looks to for responsible energy development.
Prentice, who tragically died in a plane crash late last year, argues that Canada has the potential to redefine itself as a global force in the energy world. Canada, Prentice notes, has one of the world’s largest asset bases of oil, natural gas, uranium, coal, hydroelectricity and renewable energy. He reminds us, however, that when Canadians and others talk about Canadian energy, the first thing that comes to mind are the Alberta oil sands along with the negative imagery that quickly follows.
He speaks to the fact that Canadians are proud of their aviation industry, universities, technology centres, and world-class manufacturing hubs in Ontario and Quebec, but are embarrassed and withdrawn when it comes to the energy sector. As Prentice sees it, the proof is in the pudding—not one major global energy company is headquartered in Canada.
The book starts with a comprehensive overview of Canada’s resources, and their strategic interest. It quickly digs deeper to offer an eye-opening, first-hand account of the Canadian-American relationship from a nuanced perspective. It provides a measured account of hurdles the energy economy faces, namely what many consider to be environmental challenges. Prentice frames these instead as opportunities—legitimate issues that relate to Canada’s First Nations. To conclude, Prentice describes opportunities in the Asia Pacific Basin and offers recommendations for a better future.
Prentice argues that for Canada to have a future in the energy business it must excel in the business of the environment.
Prentice’s view is that a prosperous economy and a healthy environment go hand in hand, and that Canadian politicians often don’t understand this. The economic cost of doing nothing on climate change is high, he says, noting that the Keystone XL Pipeline—the most significant expansion of Canada’s energy export capacity into the United States— was blocked only because the U.S. president didn’t want to be associated with Canada’s climate change policies. He also notes that Canada’s pipeline push to both the east and the west is being challenged by First Nations and by municipal and provincial governments, on environmental grounds.
It’s a valuable lesson to pragmatic conservatives across the country: Canada, for the sake of its continued prosperity, must respond to the issue that critics are using to undermine this success—the environment.
New Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer should heed this advice. Few people now doubt the science of climate change, virtually everyone under the age of 30, and even a majority of Albertans see the environment as an important issue. Scheer’s chances at electoral success will be significantly weakened unless the Conservatives have a mature policy position on climate change.
So far, Canadian politicians have not come up with clear, forward-looking policies on energy and the environment. These, Prentice argues, are desperately needed.
Prentice makes clear we need to lead more aggressively on the environment, and that energy success will depend on reducing our carbon emissions and greening our energy systems.
This book should be mandatory reading for any aspiring Canadian leader, regardless of partisan stripe. It is the definitive text on how to move our energy and resource economy forward in a political world that is increasingly impeding its successful future.