Canada Needs An Energy Strategy

OTTAWA - - It's been a long time since a provincial premier embraced a national vision that could actually make sense to each and every Canadian. But Alberta Premier Alison Redford has done just that.

What Redford is championing is the creation of a national energy strategy that would cover oil, gas, hydro and alternative energy sources. Redford feels that every province can benefit from a common platform on energy and they can use that co-operation as a starting point to tackle other interprovincial issues, including health care.

"We must recognize the diversity of energy production across Canada. We are a mosaic of peoples, regions and interests, and we have always celebrated this diversity," she told the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto recently. "Energy now becomes part of that discussion.


During a two-day visit to Toronto and Ottawa at the end of November, Redford made a point of reminding Ontarians that they are the direct beneficiaries of the Alberta oilsands.

In fact, she predicted that over the next 25 years, Alberta-based companies will buy $55 billion of goods and services from Ontario. Redford also made it clear that the Ontario government's support of wind and solar energy should figure into the national strategy. She's also touting the role that Quebec's hydro capability can play.

"We need a Canadian energy strategy - provinces must begin a dialogue," Redford told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce recently. "It is time to leave old antagonists behind: we must be willing to forgive and forget for our mutual benefit."

Certainly, Canada has all the building blocks that are needed to become an energy leader in the world:

. Canada has the second largest crude oil reserves in the world, with an estimated 175 billion barrels underground or under water. The only country with more oil is Saudi Arabia.

. Canada is the world's third largest producer of natural gas, with British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories all having significant natural gas resources.

. About 60 per cent of the country's electricity comes from hydro, and undeveloped potential is considered to be twice the current capacity. Canada still lacks a national grid to move power from coast to coast.

. As for alternative energy, Ontario - despite controversy and growing pains - is establishing a base to manufacture solar and wind components that can find markets inside and outside of Canada.

The challenge, as Redford points out, is to convince more people that someone in Ontario benefits from the oilsands and someone in Alberta can benefit from wind turbines made in Windsor. It's about creating an infrastructure to derive the economic benefits from the rich energy resources - for example, finally building a national grid to move hydro power from coast to coast - and market our expertise and resources to the rest of the world.

"We, as provincial leaders, whether we're from Alberta or Ontario or Quebec, need to be stakeholders and players in what a Canadian energy strategy looks like," Redford said. "A Canadian energy strategy isn't about just exploiting resources and marketing them. It's about ensuring we can talk about the use of energy in an integrated fashion and transitioning in an environmentally sustainable way to a more integrated set of sources."

We are an energy-rich country. Alison Redford is right. It's time for a national strategy to take full advantage of what we have.


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