Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is lining up behind Alberta’s call for a national energy strategy, acknowledging that the prairie province must be able to move its oil and gas through Ontario.
But, on the eve of a trip to Calgary, she called for a cautious approach in deciding the best way to transport fuel in light of clashes between First Nations, environmentalists and energy companies.
Ms. Wynne is scheduled to meet Friday with her Alberta counterpart, Alison Redford, who is pushing for national co-operation in getting her province’s resources to market.
“Oil and gas is really important to her, and an energy strategy for the country is important. I agree with that,” Ms. Wynne said in an interview at her Queen’s Park office Thursday before heading west. “Transporting these resources across the country, including through Ontario, is important to both provinces, it’s important to the country.”
She said that Alberta’s prosperity is important to ensuring the health of Ontario’s manufacturing sector, which provides much of the equipment used in oil-and-gas extraction.
“It would be hypocritical for me, in Ontario, to take any other position [but support for Ms. Redford], because the reality, is we have industries that support Alberta’s oil-and-gas economy,” she said. “We have companies in Ontario that supply to the industry. We are entwined in this and we have a lot of shared interest.”
But she would not endorse any specific proposal for moving oil and gas, such as the pipeline from Alberta to refineries in New Brunswick.
And she emphasized the need to respond to the environmental and First Nations concerns that have hampered many energy projects.
Those troubles include a stand-off between native demonstrators and police over shale gas exploration in New Brunswick earlier this month, in which protestors were shot with rubber bullets and police cars were set on fire. South of the border, the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport Alberta oil to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, continues to face opposition from environmental groups.
“I will be looking for the environmental protections to be in place and for the relationships with First Nations communities to be in place and that those relationships are respected,” she said. “It’s been a very difficult month for the movement of fuel in this country. It’s highlighted how important it is that we get the right transportation system in place.”
Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner said his province will address Ontario’s concerns as it looks for ways to get its products to market.
“We’re looking to ensure that their concerns are responded to, that there is a true and open discussion about the risks but also the rewards economically,” he said in an interview. “And I think the two premiers will have a very good discussion about that.”
The economic future of the entire country is at stake, he said.
“Under the Canadian Energy Strategy, we need to do this from the perspective of the country, and Ontario does have a significant direct and indirect benefit associated with the exploration and development of energy out of Alberta – Western Canada, really, and I think it’s in Ontario’s interests,” he said.
Ms. Wynne and Ms. Redford are scheduled for an hour-long tete-a-tete Friday morning at an inner-city Calgary café. Later, Ms. Wynne will address the local Chamber of Commerce and meet with Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
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