REGINA – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall launched a vigorous defence of the energy industry Wednesday, saying he is growing concerned that oil and gas development is increasingly being viewed as a liability by the rest of the country.
Wall said he would be raising his concern Thursday at a meeting of premiers in Newfoundland, where a national energy strategy is expected to be discussed.
“We need to be more sustainable in development, but increasingly the dialogue in the country seems to be heading in the direction where somehow oil and gas is something we ought to be ashamed of,” Wall told reporters in Saskatchewan before he headed out for the meeting a day late because of forest fires burning in his province.
“I just categorically reject that.”
Wall, who heads the right-leaning Saskatchewan Party, took aim at the outcome of a meeting between Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley and her Quebec counterpart Philippe Couillard, a Liberal, earlier this week.
Notley emerged from the face-to-face to say she is hopeful Quebec will get behind the Energy East oil pipeline, provided her province does its part to fight climate change and protect the environment.
“We can do a better job of ensuring energy development is sustainable — that’s fair,” Wall said. “But I do not think any province in Confederation should be holding up approvals of a pipeline … by saying: ‘We don’t think your environmental policies are stringent enough’ or maybe: ‘We don’t like how you price carbon.'”
He said the energy industry creates jobs and its success funds programs such as equalization, which transfers money from the federal government to less-wealthy provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, to fund equal levels of public services.
“I think there is a growing sense of frustration here because our economies in the West have been creating significant opportunities for all Canadians,” Wall said.
“Maybe we need to have equalization payments start flowing through a pipeline to finally get one approved through Central Canada.”
TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) $12-billion Energy East line would ship more than a million barrels a day of oilsands crude, which has been derided in many quarters for its big carbon footprint.
Notley’s approach to pipelines differs from that of her Progressive Conservative predecessors, who aggressively stumped for all proposals and pushed back against other provinces trying to impose conditions on their approval.
While Notley is in favour of Energy East and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion to the Vancouver area, she has said her government won’t lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States or Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal across northern British Columbia.
Alberta recently toughened up its emissions rules for large industrial emitters and doubled the province’s carbon price to $30 a tonne by 2017 for those that exceed their limit. An expert panel is examining Alberta’s broader climate change policy.