National energy plan premiers announce focus areas

The three premiers in charge of developing a comprehensive energy plan for the country have announced a list of 10 areas they think Canada and its provinces need to focus on.

Alberta, Manitoba and N.L. premiers outline 3 themes for national energy strategy

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, along with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, are leading a working group to develop a national energy strategy. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The three premiers in charge of developing a comprehensive energy plan for the country have announced a list of 10 areas they think Canada and its provinces need to focus on.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale met in Toronto Thursday to continue ongoing discussions on a national energy strategy.

"We've identified three broad areas with a view of bringing the provinces together to help grow our energy economy," Selinger told reporters at a press conference following the premiers' meeting.

In the area of "sustainability and conservation," Selinger said provinces must focus on creating awareness on these issues and figuring out how to lower the country's carbon economy.

In the area of "technology and innovation," Selinger said key objectives would be developing renewable energy resources, expanding human resources and labour skills and increasing research and technology.

Under the third theme, "delivering energy to people," Selinger  pointed to developing and enhancing transmission and transportation networks, improving the timeliness of decision-making and the regulatory approval process, promoting market diversification in North American and elsewhere and involving provinces and territories in international discussions.

Strategy initiative launched in 2012

The initiative to develop a national energy strategy was launched in 2012, following years of Council of the Federation meetings between Canada's provincial premiers. Redford, the biggest backer of having a national strategy, has been leading the working group, along with Selinger and Dunderdale.

"Historically in Canada, we've had provinces that have jurisdiction over their energy … It's no longer possible to operate in isolation," Redford said Friday, adding that world economies and industries are too closely intertwined.

National Resources Minister Joe Oliver said last year that there is no need for the provinces to create a national energy strategy, because Ottawa already has one in place. An official national energy policy was created by the Trudeau government in the 1980s, but was shut down just a few years later.  

Dunderdale, who called today's energy strategy outline an "exciting piece of work," said the premiers' next step is to launch a consultation with the Canadian public.

"It's important you be engaged in this progression of the 2007 [Council of the Federation] energy strategy," she said.

The next Council of the Federation meeting is scheduled for the third week of July in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Selinger said the premiers will discuss the energy strategy before moving forward.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has said that her province will not participate in the development of a national energy strategy until the leaders work out their problems surrounding the Northern Gateway project. Clark has argued that B.C. should receive compensation for risks associated with the proposed $5.5-billion pipeline.

Selinger said at Friday's press conference that the working group would wait until after next month's general election in B.C. before worrying about whether the province will co-operate.

"B.C. has a powerful energy economy of its own … so we’ll see what the outcome of the election is," Selinger said, "but we expect them back at the table."