Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is striking a nationalist tone in advance of a meeting with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Ottawa Wednesday evening.
Mr. Wall will be among at least three premiers to meet with Ms. Pelosi about Canada's energy industry and the oil sands. In an interview Wednesday afternoon, he said Western Canada could find other markets for its energy should Ms. Pelosi's government bow to calls from environmental groups to reduce its dependence on the Canadian oil sands.
"I think the other message here too, to America or anyone else, is we prize this relationship with America. But unlike any time in our history, the West especially has other options. The new West partnership was formed and our first trip was to Asia. We have opportunities there and places in fast-emerging economies that are looking for food security and energy security," Mr. Wall told The Globe and Mail, later adding: "There's export markets for our oil other than America."
He says he'll warn Ms. Pelosi, who will meet with four environmental leaders Thursday, that environmental concerns cannot trump job security.
"We've got to make sure that in the name of the environment we are not engaging in protectionism that's going to cost jobs on either side of the border," he said. "Let's be very clear about this. At a time of very tentative economic recovery in the U.S., if we're taking action that will have an unintended or intended consequence on Canadian energy jobs, it's going to be attacking U.S. energy jobs. It's an absolute truth."
Mr. Wall will meet with Ms. Pelosi Wednesday evening over a two-hour dinner at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson. He will be joined by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, whose province contains the vast majority of Canada's oil sands, and Quebec Premier Jean Charest, whose province provides hydroelectric power to the United States.
Ms. Pelosi has signalled she's keen to talk about the oil sands, which are facing ongoing criticism from U.S. environmental groups - 26 such groups wrote a letter to her Wednesday urging her to reconsider "the very serious consequences of reliance on Canadian tar sands oil."
Only two of the four environmental groups she is meeting with signed the letter. The more moderate Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation did not.
Mr. Stelmach said Tuesday he'd appeal to Ms. Pelosi's "sense of reason" and they'd be "talking about energy security, talking about jobs, but environment is the first and most important issue."
The environment was a topic addressed by Mr. Wall Wednesday afternoon. The Saskatchewan Premier, whose province sold 103 million barrels of oil to the United States in 2009, said that while environmental challenges remain, his province and Alberta are investing more in technology to reduce the environmental footprint "than anywhere else on earth."
"It's a great chance to have the dialogue that we wanted to have [with Ms. Pelosi] This is exactly the discussion we need to have. We know we have to do better. Every energy-producing jurisdiction, including Texas, has to do better in reducing the environmental impact of energy production," Mr. Wall said.