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TORONTO — Alberta Premier Alison Redford has a plan to move us beyond all the acrimony over Alberta’s oil sands and the pipelines that transport the black, carbon-intensive gold they contain. She calls it a “national energy strategy.” That’s strategy, not program, before you crack wise — and she’s going to grab this bull by the horns, not Ottawa.
“I see this as one big country with an awful lot of Canadians who have an interest in what our economic future will be,” Ms. Redford told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday.
Her big idea, outlined at a lunchtime address at the Royal York Hotel sponsored by the Economic Club of Canada, is that in a fact-based regulatory process, oil sands skeptics in the government and NGO communities will abandon their prejudices. They will agree to measurable targets for greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental goals, with results published independently and proactively. This calmer attitude would spread to Toronto, Ottawa, Nebraska, the White House and beyond.
No more firewalls; no more tears. “We are a mosaic of peoples, regions and interests and we have always celebrated this diversity,” she said of Canada. “Energy should be no different. We are blessed with many sources, which is a strength rather than a liability.”
“The indecision around the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates the necessity of looking to new markets,” she added. “But no matter where our search takes us, we can deliver. In Alberta’s case, this is thanks to Ontario.”
Yes, that was the the Premier of Alberta thanking Ontario for something — specifically for “invest[ing] in the oil sands at a time when other businesses were pulling out.”
“I speak for all Albertans when I say I am grateful for your support,” she added.
Many Albertans might disagree with that. And while Calgarian Jim Prentice, the former federal cabinet minister who is now a Bay Street bigwig at CIBC, referred to her on Wednesday as “the first woman ever elected to the position in our province” — true in its way — she’ll have to face opponents from other parties soon enough.
Still, if her outreach-and-conciliation approach seems naive, the oil sands debate in its current form is dreary and threadbare. When laissez-faire climate change skeptics duke it out with the oil-is-evil crowd, the simple reality — that the world will need this oil, and Canadians will need the money that comes from selling it, for the foreseeable future — too often gets ignored. This leads politicians to do impulsive and undesirable things, like punting a controversial pipeline downfield sooner than deal with it during an election campaign.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/11/16/chris-selley-alison-redford-brings-conciliatory-oil-sands-pitch-to-ontario/