Canada's three westernmost provinces will lobby Ottawa hard early in the new year to devise a national strategy that will showcase this country as an "energy powerhouse."
A joint mission to Ottawa was announced by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who was hosting a "New West Partnership" meeting Tuesday, with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
The trio of provinces, rich with energy resources such as oil, gas, coal and hydro, plan to wield their economic clout with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to harness Canada's energy prowess.
"The Western provinces have a real chance to step up in Confederation," Ms. Clark said.
A national strategy would remind Canadians that being an energy-producing country is a good thing and that steps are being taken to address environmental concerns about resource production, she said.
"We need to be proud of the fact that our country is an energy powerhouse," Ms. Clark added.
Ms. Redford has been the champion of a national strategy since she was selected as Progressive Conservative Party leader in October.
Energy executives, including powerful chief executives like Suncor Energy Inc.'s Rick George and Enbridge Inc.'s leader Pat Daniel, have been pushing the federal government to do the same. A slate of proposals have been suggested by industry and some politicians including regulatory reform, a cap-and-trade system, and incentives for renewable energy projects. However, a formal plan with concrete details has yet to emerge.
Mr. Wall said a starting point would simply be to proclaim Canada's confidence in its position as an energy-producing country, while at the same time addressing critics who have slammed this country for producing "dirty oil." He said the country can – and is – doing more to protect the environment.
"What other nation in the world that's an energy power can claim what this country can in terms of its environmentally responsible approach to the development of energy and its commitment to do better in the future?" Mr. Wall asked.
Ms. Redford said the premiers did not discuss specific proposals. The Northern Gateway pipeline, for example, has become a political hot potato in B.C., where many first-nations groups are fiercely opposed to the Enbridge project.
Although the B.C. Premier is banking on resource development in northern B.C. to fuel her job-creation agenda, the provincial government is refusing to take any position on the $5.5-billion project, a twinned-pipeline system that would ship oil from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., and condensate, which is used to thin oil, from Kitimat back to Alberta.
Ms. Clark reiterated on Tuesday that she will wait for the results of a federal review – now expected in April, 2013 – before taking a position.
"We recognize the big contribution that the oil sands make to Canada and to our national economy," Ms. Clark said. "In British Columbia, we're watching the national environmental review process as it works its way through."
Ms. Redford said the New West Partnership, which was signed last year and represents nine million people and a combined gross domestic product of $550-million, is about finding areas of common interest, not division. She didn't want to debate the merits of the Enbridge proposal.
"When we talk about Gateway, it's got to be from the perspective of what is in the public interest," said Ms. Redford, adding that economic benefits can be in the public interest.
Ms. Clark said the time has never been better for the West to have a say in the national dialogue.
"As energy producers, as a big and growing part of the national economy, this is our chance to really make sure that Western voices and Western views are reflected in the decisions that are taken in Ottawa and across the rest of the country," she said. "Energy has to be part of that discussion because that's what we do here."
With reports from Carrie Tait in Calgary and Justine Hunter in Victoria