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Canada’s premiers gave Alison Redford the cold shoulder when she proposed a national energy strategy 10 months ago. They saw no value in an alliance in which Alberta was the big player and they were all bit players. Some wanted nothing to do with the West’s “dirty oil.”
No one was more dismissive than Dalton McGuinty. “If I had my preference as to whether we have a rapidly growing oil and gas sector in the West or a lower dollar benefitting Ontario, I’ll tell you where I’d stand — with the lower dollar,” the premier said curtly.
A few months later, McGuinty’s innate courtesy prevailed. He hosted a two-hour working dinner for Redford at Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel and emerged to say the two were back on a friendly footing. “We have found a lot of common ground,” he said. “Among other things we are determined to ensure that Ontarians understand that they have a vested interest in the continuing growth and prosperity of Alberta.”
But it was too late to save Redford’s vision of a cross-Canada energy framework in which each region capitalized on its strengths — oil and gas, hydro, renewable power, refining capacity, manufacturing of high-tech equipment — and steered business to its neighbours. Too many obstacles had loomed, too much ill will had accumulated.
With the benefit of hindsight, the Alberta premier’s proposal looks more prescient than presumptuous.
Redford understood the boom-and-bust economy of the oilpatch better than her peers (and Prime Minister Stephen Harper). She knew the good times won’t last forever. She wanted to prepare for the day when the royalty revenues stopped pouring into her province’s coffers and Canada could no longer rely on its status as an “energy superpower” to guarantee unlimited economic growth.
The day hasn’t arrived, but Alberta’s prospects have dimmed. Demand for oil has fallen because of the global economic contraction, reducing both the price and the province’s royalty revenues. It is no longer clear when — or even whether — the United States will approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1291835–alberta-s-national-energy-strategy-looks-good-in-hindsight-goar