A Necessary but Unfortunate Ambiguity

In a previous blog (“Having your cake and eating it too”,) we suggested that the Council of the Federation, i.e. the Provincial Premiers, would support pipelines allowing Alberta crude to get to new markets.

Earlier this year, Premier Rachel Notley supported the development of the tar sands.  At her first Council meeting, she was diplomatic and engaged in one-on-one meetings with other Premiers.  Her meeting with Quebec Premier Pierre Couillard of Quebec was an example.

Quebec has opposed the Energy East pipeline, which of all the alternatives (Keystone XL, Northern Gateway etc.) has the best chance of overcoming obstacles to its construction. After the meeting Couillard spoke more positively, acknowledging that pipelines are the best way to move Alberta’s crude.  In return Notley acknowledged that Alberta had to take “meaningful action” on climate change, a significant concern with Quebec voters.

Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan assumed the role, quite natural to him, of primary champion of pipelines and development of fossil fuel resources.  He suggested that Notley’s cautious policy statements were in effect handing a right of veto to Eastern Provinces.

The final Council statement released to the Press covered positions of both Quebec and Alberta, as evidenced by these excerpts:

Alberta (Saskatchewan)

“The [Canadian Energy] Strategy provides the foundation for provinces and territories to work together on energy priorities and the shared goals of ensuring Canada is a recognized international leader in sustainable [?] and secure energy production, supply and transportation.  Provinces and territories have a shared interest in energy collaboration aimed at these objectives.”

Quebec

“Canada’s energy future will require a diverse portfolio of policies that send a strong, long-term signal across the economy to enhance energy efficiency, lower our carbon footprint and support the technological innovations required to drive these priorities.

“Premiers agree on the importance of transforming how we use and produce energy with cleaner and more sustainable approaches, which is part of governments’ broader economy-wide approach to addressing climate change.”

The Globe and Mail was on the mark with its caption for today’s editorial comment:  “Sound and Fury of Little Significance”. The editorial hints that the problem starts with “the other half of the energy file”- greenhouse gases.  Until there is a national strategy on greenhouse gases and firm targets for pollution reduction, the Premiers will not produce a more definitive policy statement.

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