Energy plan on front burner

Author: 
Jessica Murphy
Source: 
Sun Media
Date published: 
Mon, 2011-07-18

OTTAWA— Energy and mining ministers from across Canada will sit down Monday for two days of talks on the country’s energy future.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers will be in Kananaskis, Alta., discussing a possible national energy framework— a pan-Canadian approach to streamlined energy regulations, innovation, supply and exports.

New Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver will co-chair the conference.

The idea of a national strategy is gaining broad support — led by business leaders, including the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

In its submission to the annual conference, the business advocacy group maintained Canada’s energy resources could be a key driver for the country’s economic future.

“What is needed is focus, discipline and follow-through,” the report states, and pushes for a greater energy exports, harmonized regulations as well as a national climate-change policy.

Opposition politicians, who will be watching the talks from the sidelines, say it is high time the federal government developed a shared national vision for our energy resources.

“What people want from Ottawa is a clear sense of where we are headed,” Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Sunday. “We need to get out act together and projects need to move forward.”

A clear framework could ease delays on projects like Muskrat Falls, N. L., part of the Lower Churchill hydro project in Newfoundland, he said.

But Rae warned the politicians would need to tread carefully around provincial jurisdictions as they flesh out a blueprint framework.

The federal government created a rift with Quebec by offering funds for the Lower Churchill project. The province has refused to provide Newfoundland access to its transmission grid.

“The strategies need to be ones that engage all the provinces,” Rae noted.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May agreed it’s time to rein inwhat she says has been “unmanaged growth” with “patchwork” policies. “I’m hard-pressed to imagine anything worse than the current situation,” she said. “A national energy strategy should prioritize energy efficiency for Canadians, reduce greenhouse gases, and maximize jobs and address issues of national sovereignty.”

The four-day conference began Saturday with ministers at the Calgary Stampede. On Sunday, they traveled to Fort McMurray, Alta., and toured Syncrude and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) oilsands sites.

Sierra Club Canada criticized the ministers last week for accepting industry sponsorship for the conference, including from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Enbridge and Shell. Environmentalists have also raised concerns a national energy strategy will simply be used to push forward controversial projects like TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport crude oil from the Athabasca oilsands in northeastern Alberta to the U.S.

RELATED:

List of corporate sponsors raises eyebrows at energy summit  Postmedia News, July 13, 2011

Private funding for energy ministers meeting a 'corrupting influence'  Calgary Herald, July 13, 2011

Corporate sponsorship for energy meeting slammed  CBC News, July 13, 2011

No easy task for ministers to set national energy strategy in Kananaskis  Canadian Press, July 15, 2011

Big Oil sponsors energy meeting  News 660, July 13, 2011

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