Leaders seek national energy policy

Urban experts and business leaders are urging the federal government to come up with a comprehensive national energy policy but the country's natural resources minister seeks a more co-operative approach.

Urban experts and business leaders are urging the federal government to come up with a comprehensive national energy policy but the country's natural resources minister seeks a more co-operative approach.

Joe Oliver is meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts in  Kananaskis, Alta., this weekend and he's under pressure from several groups to come up with new rules. The annual conference seeks to find common ground in terms of priorities, trade and regulation.

John Manley, who once served as a federal finance and industry minister, says Canada is in urgent need of a national energy strategy.

"[We] are considered an energy superpower and that implies there should be a strategy around how we marshal our assets," Manley, who now heads the nonprofit Canadian Council of Chief Executives, told CBC Radio's The House program on Saturday.

While Oliver says a shared vision for energy is key to Canada's long-term future as an energy superpower, he says the Harper government will respect provincial jurisdiction and seek a collaborative approach.

It's a matter of national sovereignty that the federal government present a united front internationally when it comes to energy resources, Manley said.

"If we see ourselves essentially as part of a North American electricity grid … and we are part of a global market for oil and gas, we need to look after our interests, and one way to do that is to make sure we're at the table discussing it as a continental issue."

However, environmental groups and urban organizations say the discussions should be broader and include more issues that just energy, such as sustainability.

Environmental groups needed at the table

Former Toronto mayor David Miller says cities and environmental organizations should be included in these high-level talks next week.

"Most of our energy consumption is from cities," Miller, an adviser on environmental and urban issues to several cities who also works as a sustainability consultant for businesses, said in an interview with CBC Radio.

"It's the energy used to heat and cool buildings and in a place like Toronto, that accounts for 65 per cent of that city's energy use."

Instead, Miller said, the federal focus seems to be oil, he suggests an energy strategy that is much broader.

"For instance," Miller said, "all these concrete slab apartment buildings were built with federal funding in '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s and are massive wasters of energy.

"If the federal government would fund the retrofit of them, in Toronto alone the estimate is that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by six per cent, which is a massive number, and we would create about 30,000 jobs," Miller said.

Government needs to take a leadership role because the private sector is not getting involved, Miller said: "The payback is about 10 years [after a retrofit] and not two to three years, which the privates need."