“Few countries in the world are bringing on energy and mining projects of this scale or at this pace – creating a truly once-in-a-generation opportunity for Canadians.”
Joe Oliver,
is the federal Natural Resources minister
Canada’s energy and mines ministers ended their annual conference last month with an agreement to col­laborate on key priorities – much the same as they did after their gathering last year.
Co-chaired by federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and PEI Finance, Energy and Municipal Affairs Minister Wesley Sheridan, this year’s meeting in Charlottetown focused on the actions needed to realize the economic potential of Canada’s energy and mining industries, and to strengthen the country’s position as a global leader in the two sectors.
But repeated calls from a wide range of energy industry leaders, labour unions, environmental groups and the Government of Al­berta for a national energy strategy were downplayed by Mr. Oliver at the end of the conference, when he told the media that he had not heard any proposals that were not already being addressed.
And the meeting’s closing state­ment made it clear that collabora­tion among the provincial govern­ments on energy issues must be based on respect for individual jurisdictions and the recognition of regional strengths.
The ministers emphasized the importance of natural resources to Canada’s economy, pointing out that natural resources ac­counted for 15 per cent of nominal GDP in 2011, as well as directly employing nearly 800,000 Cana­dians and attracting some $650 billion in capital investments for resource projects underway or planned over the next 10 years.
“Few countries in the world are bringing on energy and mining projects of this scale or at this pace – creating a truly once-in-a-generation opportunity for Canadians,” Mr. Oliver said. “But we cannot take these investments for granted. We must do more to diversify Canada’s access to global markets, while ensuring world-class environmental protection, including strong pipeline and marine safety regimes.”
While a specific energy strategy was not on the agenda in Char­lottetown, there was agreement on the importance of capital, mar­ket growth and diversification for all of Canada’s energy resources, as well as the related need for in­frastructure to transport resources to market and for innovation to reduce costs, improve environ­mental performance and create new global market opportunities.
One of the groups calling for a national energy strategy, Blue Green Canada, was disappointed with the lack of progress at Charlottetown. Formed in 2008, the organization is a coalition of labour unions and environmen­talists calling for a consensus among provinces and territories that will allow for practical ways to create jobs, cut emissions and lower energy bills for families.
Spokespeople for the coalition partners are disappointed in the federal government’s failure to take the lead in developing an energy strategy, and are calling on the provinces to step in.
“The federal government con­tinues to single-mindedly focus on increasing oil exports, and refuses to have a frank dialogue about the impacts of placing all our eggs in that basket,” says Mark Rowlinson, assistant to the Canadian national director of the United Steelworkers. “Luckily, moving forward on a Canadian energy strategy doesn’t depend on them – provinces can take the lead and craft a plan to create good new jobs, cut emissions and spur clean, renewable energy.”
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, says the stakes are too high to let prog­ress toward a Canadian energy strategy fizzle.
“Our climate and our economy need us to get serious about the transition to clean energy,” he says. “Big oil can’t be the only show in town. We look forward to working with the provinces to put meat on the bones of a Canadian energy strategy in the coming months.”
Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, agrees that Canada’s energy in­dustry needs to change its current focus.
“While much talk has been made about diversifying Canada’s oil and gas markets, Canada also needs to diversify its energy industry into more clean energy technologies and production,” he says. “This conference in Charlottetown shows that some provinces and territories across Canada are taking more seriously the need to create green jobs and a vibrant and competitive clean energy economy. We look forward to continued progress towards a Canadian energy strategy.”
Dave Coles, national president of the Communications, En­ergy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, says that it’s important to continue elaborating a plan to reduce emissions and create good-quality jobs in each of Canada’s provinces.
“We look forward to conversa­tions with governments and with members of the industry to take steps towards planning a green and stable future for our commu­nities,” he says.