Is the meeting of energy ministers currently underway in Kananaskis a real attempt to develop an energy strategy that works for Canadians in all regions of the country?
Or is it an elaborate attempt on the part of the host Alberta government and its patrons in the oil patch to win support from other provinces and the federal government for their controversial plans to build bitumen export pipelines to the U.S. Gulf Coast and the port of Kitimat in B.C. (the "gateway" to China)?
That was the question that prompted Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan to send an open letter to all energy ministers attending the conference asking them to embrace an energy strategy that focuses on long-term job creation as opposed to the short-term desire of many energy companies to "rip it and ship it."
"Canadians have a choice to make. We can either remain 'hewers of wood and drawers of water,' or we can move up the value chain, where the real money and real jobs are," wrote McGowan. "Currently, we're moving down the value ladder, not up. And the Keystone XL and Gateway pipelines would only accelerate that process. The bottom line is that the world wants our energy: So let's give them energy. But let's keep the jobs, the profits and the extra tax revenue here. It's our oil, so it should be our choice."
McGowan also suggested that a national energy strategy befitting Canada's new position as a global "energy superpower" would have the following components:
- It would help knit the country together by encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines so that Quebec and the Maritimes would no longer have to rely on countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Venezuela for more than 80 per cent of their oil needs. Shockingly, there is currently no infrastructure in place to take western oil to the eastern half of the country.
- It would ensure Canadians get the best possible price for the sale of their collectively owned energy assets by introducing a truly national process for setting and bargaining royalty rates, so that energy companies could no longer play one jurisdiction against the other.
- It would look at the oil sands as a transitional resource: A resource that should be developed in as an environmentally sustainable way as possible and which will – very explicitly – be used to help provide us with the revenue necessary to build the next, greener economy in Canada.
"In the end, Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert is right when he says the meeting in Kananaskis has the potential to be historic," concluded McGowan. "But that will only happen if all of Canada's energy ministers dare to think and dream big. If Canada is to become a global energy superpower, then we need a strategy that ensures that power is used to the benefit of all Canadians, not just those who own large oil companies or are lucky enough to work in the energy sector."
McGowan is in Kanansakis today attending sessions at the energy minister's conference. He is available for interview on site or by phone.
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888