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Alberta Preemier Alison Redford has made a national energy plan into a pillar of her government's agenda. (Blair Gable/Reuters)
Alberta Preemier Alison Redford has made a national energy plan into a pillar of her government's agenda. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Letter from Alberta

Redford has a national energy plan - but don't call it the NEP Add to ...

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is championing some kind of national energy plan and even though she hasn’t exactly spelled out what it means, she is quick to correct the vernacular.

It’s a “Canadian Energy Strategy,” not a National Energy Program. That Trudeau-era hangover still gives Albertans a headache. Advocating for a new nationwide strategy has become such a defining feature of the Redford government, that it is already known in government shorthand as CES, not NEP.

Ms. Redford travels this week to Quebec and Ontario, where she’ll be meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest; speaking with officials from TD Bank Financial Group about the bank’s outlook on the global economy; sitting down for a series of media interviews and giving a speech to the venerable Albany Club in Toronto. At each turn, she’ll lay out her vision for a national approach to energy. Ms. Redford already has B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall on her side after hosting a meeting with her western counterparts last month.

“Ontario and Quebec, all provinces quite frankly, have stakes in a CES and we’ll continue to reach out to other premiers,” said Kim Misik, a spokeswoman in the Alberta premier’s office.

Ms. Redford hopes to create an energy framework that allows each region to work together based on its strengths to access new markets to the benefit of the Canadian economy overall, she added.

Ms. Redford, who was selected Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in October, explained in an interview last month that her goal isn’t to produce a document that every premier signs.

“It’s to say that we as Canadians need to come together and know that our future economic development, that our economic growth is going to come from our ability to export energy, whether it’s hydro, whether it’s our resources, whether it’s electricity – nuclear in some places – all of that is what allows us to continue to grow,” she said.

Environmental stewardship, Ms. Redford continued, and what each province is doing to reduce its carbon footprint, will in turn, help bolster Canada’s image.

“That’s going to allow for us to have a different discussion internationally in terms of who we are as global energy leaders,” she added.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a radio talk show last week that he wasn’t sure what such a strategy would involve, but jokingly said he “always gets nervous” when the words “national” and “energy” are placed together.

“The honest truth is I don’t know precisely what it means,” he said.

During a later visit to Edmonton, Mr. Harper further addressed Ms. Redford’s interest in a national energy strategy.

“She has broached that issue with me, although I am actually anticipating we will be having some meetings in the not-too-distant future with Alberta and with several other provinces to get more details about precisely what they have in mind,” he said.

It’s not just Ms. Redford and certain other premiers who are on board. Industry and labour groups alike have supported some sort of national plan. When energy executives started talking about such an initiative a few years ago, they called it – and still do – a “national energy strategy.”

It’s just a matter of figuring out what it is.

Alberta, meanwhile, is keeping its door open.

“As far as the PM goes, what’s on or off the table is something that will take shape as the premiers and the feds continue to talk,” said Ms. Misik, who pointed out that Ms. Redford broached the subject with Mr. Harper when they met in November.

“We’d welcome another opportunity to have another conversation with the PM on a Canadian Energy Strategy,” she added.

With a report from Josh Wingrove in Edmonton

Editor's note: TD Bank Financial Group produces reports about economic outlooks, not TD Canada Trust. Incorrect information appeared here earlier. This version has been corrected.

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