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Premier Danielle Smith wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stating that Alberta wants to work in partnership with Ottawa rather than 'continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements.'Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who won support from United Conservative Party members by treating the federal government as an adversary, on Thursday deployed a more diplomatic approach: writing a letter to the Prime Minister arguing the environment would be better protected if Canada increased its fossil fuel output.

Ms. Smith, who is embroiled in controversy over allegations someone in her office attempted to influence criminal proceedings related to COVID-19 violations, asked Justin Trudeau for a meeting in February to discuss policies tied to a plan that has become known as Just Transition. Ms. Smith and the UCP have made the federal proposal, which remains vague, a political punching bag, alleging Ottawa is out to kill the province’s oil and gas sector.

Albertans are scheduled to go to the polls in May and Ms. Smith is a persuasive champion of the province’s energy industry. She, along with some of her fellow UCP MLAs, have released a series of videos knocking Mr. Trudeau’s Just Transition; they are keen to tie provincial New Democratic Party Leader Rachel Notley to the federal wing of her party, which props up the Liberal minority government in Ottawa. Ms. Smith’s letter redirected attention to the debate over the future of the energy industry, while using a more conciliatory tone than she has in the past.

“Prime Minister, we are at a crossroads in Alberta’s relationship with the federal government,” Ms. Smith cautioned, adding she would rather work “in partnership” with Ottawa than “continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements.”

Ms. Smith in November introduced a constitutionally-questionable act she said will defend Alberta’s interests against a meddling Ottawa. The province has participated in a number of lawsuits against the federal government, such as those challenging the carbon tax and Ottawa’s plan to phase out single-use plastics.

The Premier proposed co-operating on legislation that would decrease net emissions in Canada and Alberta; accelerate private and public investment in projects like carbon capture utilization and storage, hydrogen development, and zero-emissions vehicles; attract employees to the conventional energy sector as well as the industries she hopes to develop; and “through the lens of global emissions reduction,” increase exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, and conventional oil and natural gas to Europe, Asia, and the United States.

If these points are not incorporated into the federal legislation, it will face “irrepressible opposition from Alberta,” Ms. Smith said.

A just transition, according to Natural Resources Canada, involves preparing the work force to participate in a low-carbon economy while reducing the affects of transition on labourers. The federal government concedes Alberta will be especially vulnerable given its reliance on oil and gas. Ms. Smith and like-minded critics argue the Just Transition will decimate Alberta’s most prominent sector.

“It would be premature and ill-advised to signal the end of a vibrant, thriving industry that has the ability to reduce Canada’s and the world’s emissions through technological innovation and increased exports of LNG and other clean burning fuels the world so desperately needs,” Ms. Smith’s letter said.

Natural Resources Canada did not respond to a request for comment. Ottawa is still consulting with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples on the Just Transition proposal.

Ms. Smith’s letter urged Mr. Trudeau to drop the phrase “Just Transition” and label any forthcoming legislation the “Sustainable Jobs Act.” She demanded he publicly vow to design legislation that will increase jobs and investment in the conventional energy sector, as well as in petrochemicals, nuclear technology and other areas; expand LNG exports in order to reduce emissions; and work with Alberta to create “reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions” targets.

Opposition Leader Ms. Notley, in a statement, said Ms. Smith’s record undermines her ability to achieve the goals outlined in the letter.

“Many of the objectives in today’s letter are laudable but Danielle Smith lacks credibility among working people and investors as a result of her combative and inflammatory positioning to date,” Ms. Notley said.

Ms. Smith’s office has been blanketed in controversy since Jan. 19, when the CBC published a story citing unnamed sources alleging one of the Premier’s employees e-mailed the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging its approach to cases related to the protests at the border last year. An internal IT review over the weekend did not turn up evidence of contact, according to the government. Ms. Smith has called on the news organization to retract its story, which the CBC rejected.

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