Canadian energy ministers to meet in Kananaskis

Canada's energy ministers will meet in Kananaskis, Alta. this weekend to discuss creating a national energy strategy.

Look to craft national strategy

Officials will tour an oil sands operation in Fort McMurray, Alta. as part of the conference. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Canada's energy ministers will meet in Kananaskis, Alta. this weekend to discuss creating a national energy strategy, as well as opportunities in the mining sector.

The annual conference between federal, provincial and territorial officials will be held July 16 to 19 and will look at finding common ground in terms of priorities, trade and regulation.

Federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver said it was "in the interest of all Canadians, from coast to coast, to exploit the enormous natural resources we have."

Oliver also said he supported a "one project, one review" policy for megaprojects.

"Ideally we would like to avoid too much duplication," he said. "You know, to have two regulators look at the very same issue can be very costly and it can create a lot of delays."

The president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said not having a national strategy has hurt the Canadian economy.

"I think it signaled in some respects to investors outside of Canada that we're not clear about where we want to go and we've lost opportunities abroad where we could have had a stronger foothold," Brenda Kenny said.

A coherent policy would also help to refocus the country in international markets.

Kenny said, "It's time for Canada to ask herself, 'Do we want to be a global player and, if so, how do we position ourselves strategically as a nation that can be a powerhouse?'" 

Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation, a non-profit, public policy organization which represents Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, said the diversity of energy sources in this country make a national strategy worthwhile.

Gibbins also said Alberta is in the driver's seat when it comes to energy policy.

Doubts whether deal can be reached

However, some have questioned the viability of crafting a national strategy.

Andrew Leach, a business professor from the University of Alberta, said a unified policy would be ideal but doubted whether every province could get what it wanted. 

Some are also wary of any hint of the National Energy Program, introduced in 1980 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to give Ottawa more control over the country's resources, which angered many in the West.

John Bennett, executive director of the environmental group Sierra Club of Canada, said the whole focus of the meeting should be changed.

Instead of looking to expand the country's oil exports, the ministers should discuss ways to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to climate change.

The conference drew criticism earlier this week after reports revealed several energy companies are paying for nearly a third of the $600,000 price tag.