[Quebec] The next Alberta – by Ted Morton (National Post – October 25, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Ted Morton, formerly a minister in the Alberta government in the portfolios of energy, finance and sustainable resource development, is an executive fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. This is excerpted from a presentation to the annual meeting of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association in Montreal on Oct. 22.

Natural gas might reverse Quebec’s declining influence

A made-in-Quebec natural gas industry would help to build a stronger Quebec. It would mean lower gas prices and huge savings for both households and businesses. This would make Quebec businesses more competitive, which translates into more exports, more jobs, and less out-migration.

Shale gas does not have to be at the expense of the environment. Increased natural gas production is the most immediate and cost-effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in North America — including Quebec.

With respect to protecting groundwater and safe regulation of hydraulic fracturing, Quebec doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Alberta is able and willing to share its experience and expertise in regulating fracking. Indeed, because of its unique geology, Quebec has the opportunity to set the standard for the cleanest natural gas production in North America.

Nor does development of Quebec’s shale gas have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Quebec could proceed with a smaller pilot project to allow for research that monitors social, economic and environmental impacts. This phrased-in approach was recently recommended for New Brunswick.

Speaking as both an Albertan and a Canadian, I think shale gas resources offer Quebeckers a unique opportunity to change the trajectory of its political economy. Both globally and nationally, there is a direct correlation between economic strength and political influence. Put differently, economic weakness and dependency are not political assets, particularly for a jurisdiction that seeks greater autonomy in shaping its future.

At the end of the Second World War, Alberta was the poorest province in Canada, and had little to no influence in Ottawa. In 1954, distinguished McGill University professor J.R. Mallory described Canada’s version of two-tier federalism: “The superior size and bargaining position of Ontario and Quebec give them a status and an autonomy which are different in kind to those of the rest of the provinces.… The outlying provinces are still Canada’s empire and Canada is still, for many purposes, little more than the original area which it encompassed at Confederation…. ”

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/10/24/the-next-alberta/

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