Alberta premier says Northern Gateway critical to Canadian economy

Updated below with transcript of Alison Redford’s speech.

 Bill Graveland of Canadian Press reports in  Alberta premier says Northern Gateway pipeline critical for Canadian economic development.

In an address to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, which CP says was her first major address in Calgary since becoming premier, Alison Redford said that the Northern Gateway pipeline project is of national importance and is critical to Canada’s future economic strength.

“We need to be able to talk about why the success of this pipeline becomes critical to our economic success in the next two years. But we are going to have to separate the wheat from the chaff because we know there are going to be a number of interveners who have very particular political agendas,” said Redford in a question and answer session following a lunch-hour address to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Redford was referring to the large number of people who have registered either as intervenors or to give comments at the Joint Review hearings. She added:

The agenda that I think matters to most Canadians is the agenda for economic growth at a time when the rest of the world is in very uncertain circumstances and we just don’t have to be.”

CP says Redford called on other Canadians to lobby on behalf of the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate or even necessary for only Alberta or only Alberta interests to be out lobbying with respect to this pipeline. We’re trying to ensure it succeeds. This is an issue that takes on national importance and my expectation with people in Ottawa including the prime minister is they understand that,” she said.

Update one

A few hours later, columnist Don Braid writing in the Calgary Herald in It’s sinking in that Redford is different notes how the powerful of the Alberta oil patch were eager to hear the premier’s speech, as compared to former premier Ed Stelmach.

Braid notes that:

It’s just beginning to sink in that Redford is radical in the Alberta context, a national diplomat of an entirely new order.

She does not say, like the old Reform party, that the West Wants In. She assumes that Alberta already is in, and offers to lead without the resentment born of grievances from the old National Energy Program to current attacks on the oilsands.

Although Braid’s column goes over Alberta’s old grievances with the federal government, and how perhaps the premier is diplomatically working to overcome them,  he closes with an ominous threat to British Columbia:

Redford might someday have to show a brass knuckle inside her velvet glove.

She might even suggest, along with former minister Lloyd Snelgrove, that B.C. has a lot of nerve rejecting Alberta oil, when B.C.’s natural gas is routinely shipped through Alberta pipelines to the United States.

Snelgrove isn’t recommending a ban, oh no, but he says: “Maybe people need to think about that when they say they won’t take our oil.”

Maybe they do; or maybe Alison Redford’s olive branch will bring peace and prosperity to the land.

There is widespread support for the LNG projects in Kitimat and across the northwest and the KM LNG partners project has much better relations with First Nations than Enbridge.

However, last week’s blockade by members of Wet’suwet’en First Nation clans of a Pacific Trails Pipeline survey crew at Gosnell River, over fears that the PTP project could open the gates, so to speak, for the Northern Gateway pipeline, means that nothing is certain.

Perhaps Don Braid and Lloyd Snelgrove should be careful what they wish for.

Update 2 Transcript of Premier Redford’s speech.

Premier Redford does not mention Northern Gateway in the actual speech ( the news reports are from a question and answer session).

She does say, however:

“The world will need fossil fuels for a long time to come. The oil sands, as one of the few energy-rich areas outside the unstable Middle East poised for growth, will be essential, as the International Energy Agency publicly recognized this month. The second is that there is no Canadian Energy Strategy without our partners.
The infrastructure we need to get our oil and gas to market must cross other provinces’ lands. And the federal and provincial regulations that will inevitably shape how Canada’s environment is protected, how our energy is extracted and how it is transported will require input from everybody to have the greatest net positive effect.

We must rise together. There is no other way.

Alberta’s success depends on partnership with the province.”

Thank you for that introduction, Nancy (Southern). Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to be here with you. Thanks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce for asking me to be here today.

I am pleased to have the chance to speak to you today about the province’s economy and our place in uncertain times.

The global population is growing, and its needs and wants are expanding too. We have 7 billion people on this planet, and many of them aspire to a higher standard of living.

And those who already enjoy it want to do so more responsibly. They want to mitigate the impact of their consumption, and they expect producers to respond.

The world needs food and energy, in greater quantities with fewer consequences for the environment.

Alberta is uniquely placed to meet this demand and excel, despite the short-term negative impact of our neighbours’ woes on our finances.

We can become preferred suppliers on a global scale.

The mechanisms we need to achieve this are already in place.

Our agricultural sector maintains a sterling reputation. And our energy industry is at the leading edge in production, innovation, technology and compliance, all areas this government is working to improve even further.

In both areas, we have a skilled workforce capable of expanding production in an environmentally and socially responsible, and economically sustainably manner. Our resources are therefore not just profitable, but strategic.

Simply put, Alberta is opportunity. And so long as we begin laying the foundations now to establish this province as an international hub for commodities and expertise, this will remain true for a long time come.

But we can’t forget why we are doing this.

Our search for new markets can never overshadow our highest priority: improving the quality of life for all Albertans.

It is our responsibility to ensure that every Albertan shares in the benefits our capabilities afford us.

The wider we spread prosperity, the more we gain.

You understand this as well as I do, which is why I have been saying “we” all along.

Quality of life is not purely a matter for government. In a place as independent-minded as Alberta, the private sector plays a major role.

Many of the individuals in this room have achievements that go far beyond the professional sphere. You sit on the boards of non-profits, generously provide them with financial support and tap your personal networks to find still more.

You devote a significant part of your lives to giving back, strengthening the bonds that hold Calgary together by reaching out to the less fortunate in love and compassion, in the hope of making a positive change in their lives. You make a difference in this city every single day.

Government must support your efforts by making things easier for you, so you can do the same for others, and complement the public sector’s work.

There is one way to go about this: growing Alberta’s economy.

Expanding industry, investing in innovation and tuning our tax structures to support business ? these are the methods we use to fund our public services and deliver community supports.

These are also the tools we need to build Alberta’s wealth and create opportunities, for philanthropy, for personal fulfillment and for nurturing the community relationships that make Calgary a city worth living in.

Despite the tenuous world economy, we can still protect and preserve these aspirations.

Alberta has incredible natural advantages that allow us to accomplish things that no other province can hope to achieve. We can use them to build even as others struggle to stay afloat and that’s exactly what this government will do.

We have the ability and the will to sow the seeds of a brighter future, the one Albertans have told us they want.

During our recent public roundtables on the budget, Albertans overwhelmingly indicated that health and education remain their highest priorities.

They expect high-quality public services, a comfortable standard of living and fiscal responsibility, without deep cuts.

We can deliver, without soaring expenditures and long-term debt.

Alberta has the distinction of being the most economically free jurisdiction in North America.

We have low unemployment, strong job growth and a reliable economic engine, positioning us to lead Canada.

Our tax regime is one of the most competitive in the developed world.

Even as other economies flounder, we are attracting investment and skilled workers.

Our small businesses are second to none, accounting for almost a third of provincial GDP and over three-quarters of all enterprises with employees.

And our large businesses continue to thrive and invest in innovation.

Of course, not everything is coming up roses. We have a tough budget ahead of us.

The costs of core services like health care and education continue to grow.

And our largest trading partners are weighed down with unsustainable debt loads, anaemic growth and high unemployment. Alberta can’t help being affected to some degree.

In the current fiscal year, provincial revenues will be $1.2 billion more than predicted, thanks mostly to increased land lease sales. However, our forecasted deficit will be $3.1 billion, $1.8 billion higher than first quarter projections.

This is largely due to international factors beyond our control. The US, our main customer, remains weak. American debt now exceeds $15 trillion and cross-party efforts to find mutually acceptable spending cuts have led only to more acrimony. Unemployment remains stubbornly high and growth stubbornly low, while a solution seems farther away than ever.

I was in Washington last week and let me tell you, the despair was palpable.

Europe’s troubles add to the mix. Despite the international bailout package the European Union has put together, there is still a strong expectation that Greece will default on its debts. Other EU members such as Italy and Portugal are struggling to avoid the same situation.

And from a provincial perspective, government has seen increased outlays due to disaster relief, especially from the wildfires around Slave Lake, and our renewed commitment to primary education.

We are not living in the best of times, but neither are we mired in the worst. And however grim are partners’ economic struggles, they do not define our destiny.

The Alberta Advantage will ensure we stay in an enviable position of strength.

We will make the most of the province’s unique characteristics to deliver what Albertans want.

We will keep taxes low while maintaining strong public service and a wealth of opportunity.

Our plans for stable, multi-year budgets for these services will bring unprecedented discipline to public spending. Other governments have talked about doing it. We will make it happen.

Hard decisions on the part of past governments have allowed Alberta to eliminate its long-term debt and build up a savings account, the Sustainability Fund, to see us through rough patches.

We will conduct regular budgetary reviews to search for savings wherever we can, managing our finances to protect future Albertans from debt.

And we remain committed to balancing the budget by 2013-14, without the sharp cuts Albertans fear.

This government will never lose sight of Albertans’ needs, or back away from providing supports to our most vulnerable, and services for all, no matter what the outside world throws our way.

We will keep working for Alberta families.

Their hopes and dreams demand no less.

I know this government can surpass them.

Even if the fog of another recession descends, we have a clear path back.

Diversifying our customer base to focus on hungry developing nations is the key to our long-term success.

We must pursue opportunity wherever we find it, searching for new partners in new markets and promoting Alberta on the global stage.

Even as the western world falters, other economies are thriving.

Asia’s star is rising and Asian nations are poised to dominate the 21st century. Best of all, they are eager for our resources and our know-how, particularly in energy.

We can deliver, in a safe, secure and environmentally friendly fashion. But we can’t go it alone.

The rest of the provinces can join our efforts and escape the trap of low growth and high debt, into which so many others have fallen.

Canada is an energy-rich nation, blessed with an incredibly array of resources, from the oil sands to hydro, natural gas, nuclear and renewables.

No single source is better than any other or can stand on its own.

Innovation is the key to developing our capacity to produce them all at competitive rates. Collaboration is the key to developing the infrastructure necessary to get our energy to market. The more the provinces work together to harness and transport their respective resources, the greater our shared prosperity will be. We need a Canadian Energy Strategy.

The provinces must begin a dialogue to develop shared outcomes that their energy systems can serve. Collectively, they should use energy to foster national economic growth and competitiveness, seeking out new markets.

Canadians all face similar challenges notwithstanding the different forms of energy under development such as international market uncertainty, fiscal issues, public opinion, environmental protection and regulatory concerns.

Untangling the web of self-interest that divides this great nation will not be easy, but if the provinces are willing to work together, they can transform Canada into a global energy leader, drawing sustainably on multiple sources in a way that benefits the world and our citizens, without compromising anyone’s quality of life. We can become models for countries dealing with similar issues.

It is time to leave old antagonisms behind.

The oil sands have come in for particularly sharp criticism from the rest of Canada. We must be willing to forgive and forget, to work together for our mutual benefit.

We must ally with the other provinces to attain the greatest possible prosperity, but we can’t dictate terms. This must be a genuinely cooperative endeavour, from which everybody gains.

At the end of the day, we must recall two things:

One is that there is no Canadian Energy Strategy without us.

The world will need fossil fuels for a long time to come. The oil sands, as one of the few energy-rich areas outside the unstable Middle East poised for growth, will be essential, as the International Energy Agency publicly recognized this month.

The second is that there is no Canadian Energy Strategy without our partners.

The infrastructure we need to get our oil and gas to market must cross other provinces’ lands. And the federal and provincial regulations that will inevitably shape how Canada’s environment is protected, how our energy is extracted and how it is transported will require input from everybody to have the greatest net positive effect.

We must rise together. There is no other way.

Alberta’s success depends on partnership with the provinces.

And the health of each and every province is inextricably linked to the strength of the global economy.

On every level, we are stronger together than apart, because far more unites us than separates us.

Although Canada can’t entirely escape the downward pull of its long-suffering trading partners, this doesn’t mean the rest of the country is doomed to suffer, any more than Alberta is.

We have a way out, and it’s time we used it. It’s time to stand up and show others how Alberta and Canada can lead globally on all fronts, from the economy to the environment to energy.

Our shared future Canada’s future is worth infinitely more than our quarrels. Together, we can shine.

To ensure Canadians’ prosperity, the provinces must translate this realization into action. I pledge to you: Alberta’s government will.

Thank you.