Alberta's climate-change plan selling point for pipelines, Rachel Notley says

Alberta will use its new climate-change plan as a major selling point to help convince other premiers to back the pipelines needed to carry the province’s oil to tidewater, says Rachel Notley.

Heading into Council of the Federation meetings, Canada's oil province has new ammunition

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will join provincial and territorial leaders from across Canada this week for two days of Council of the Federation meetings in Whitehorse. (CBC)

Alberta will use its new climate-change plan as a major selling point to help convince other premiers to back the pipelines needed to carry the province's oil to tidewater, says Rachel Notley.

In the past, discussions about inter-provincial pipelines have been closely linked to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands projects, Alberta's premier said Tuesday.

Her government's climate change plan, unveiled in November, should lay to rest some of those concerns, Notley said, hours before she boarded an airplane to Whitehorse for two days of Council of the Federation meetings on Thursday and Friday.

"Now we're able to say, 'Listen folks, this is not what should be part of this conversation,' " Notley said. " 'We've got a plan back in Alberta. We've put in a cap on emissions from the oilsands.' "

The NDP climate-change plan includes a carbon tax on industry expected to raise $3 billion a year, money the government has said will be reinvested in renewable energy sectors and cover increased costs to consumers.

Notley said that plan, the most comprehensive of its kind in Canada, should remove any lingering doubts that Alberta is serious about finding a responsible balance between growing the economy and protecting the environment.

'Here's the solution, here's the answer'

"I can now say, 'That piece, Alberta's got it,' " Notley said. "Here's the solution, here's the answer. Now let's just talk about the economic merits, and potentially the site-specific environmental issues associated with the pipeline. That's an example of the way in which the conversation moves forward."

In the days before last summer's Council of the Federation meetings in St. John's, N.L., Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard raised concerns about the proposed Energy East pipeline, citing its potential impact on climate change.

Couillard's comments drew criticism from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who later accused Notley of giving Quebec veto power over future pipelines.

For her part, Notley said consensus on such issues would never be reached by premiers "picking fights" and "showboating."

In the end, premiers and territorial leaders reached a deal on a Canadian energy strategy, and issued a joint news release that highlighted their common commitment to "strengthening the economy, creating jobs, ensuring a secure supply of energy for all Canadians, supporting energy innovation and addressing climate change."

Notley said Tuesday she hopes leaders this week can reach an agreement about how future pipeline projects should be reviewed.

'We can't just pay lip-service to this ...'

"In my view, I think what we need to do is develop a consensus in terms of the review process," Notley said. "One that is … predictable in terms of its timing, that acknowledges the need to engage in appropriate and fulsome environmental review, that acknowledges the need to engage with communities, both the communities along the route as well as Indigenous communities whose rights may be affected.

"But at the same time understands that we as a nation need to move quickly on this. We can't just pay lip-service to this, then find ourselves in the same position a decade from now."

Though Alberta has been hardest hit, falling oil prices have hurt the economy across Canada, Notley said, underscoring the "urgent" need for pipelines to carry oil to new markets.

"In Alberta, we all understand that sense of urgency, that this has to be done," she said.

One of her goals at this week's meeting, Notley said, will be to transfer "that sense of urgency to other jurisdictions."