Alison Redford is the former premier of Alberta.
The premiers are meeting this week in St. John's at their annual summer gathering, where they have a rare opportunity to truly use their combined power to advance a Canadian energy strategy and, through real co-operation, break down interprovincial barriers to build a stronger Canada.
When premiers agreed to Alberta's proposal to develop a Canadian energy strategy in 2012, it was done in a spirit of unity, recognizing the unique expertise and potential from every region to transform our country into a global energy leader.
The strategy acknowledged then, as I hope it will be today, is that every province needs to support one other in developing energy infrastructure, while respecting provincial objectives on greenhouse gas reductions and environmental stewardship.
Crucially, these twin goals of expanding energy infrastructure while ensuring that we manage the development of our energy resources in a responsible and sustainable manner are not mutually exclusive, as some on the extreme edge of the debate argue. It is simply not realistic to claim that we can transition off oil and gas tomorrow, or that stopping desperately needed pipeline development will keep Alberta and Saskatchewan's oil resources in the ground. Even with the continued push toward greater energy efficiency and renewable generation, the world will continue to consume increasing amounts of fossil fuels.
According to the International Energy Agency's most recent global outlook, demand for energy – in all of its forms – is expected to grow at a rate of 1.1 per cent through 2040. Despite the substantial growth expected in wind, solar and other emission-less energy sources over that same time frame, those sources will fulfill only 5 per cent of primary energy demand by then.
Realistically, as the premiers look to the future, it's not a question of alternative energy versus fossil fuels. The world will need both. And that is why a Canadian energy strategy is both timely and necessary.
It comes with the potential for the premiers – acting with common purpose – to rise above historical tiffs and take a refreshingly pan-Canadian view on the responsible development of our energy resources to further enhance the prosperity of every Canadian.
The strategy should see each province continue to play to their respective strengths, be it hydroelectric development in Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador; wind, solar and natural gas development in Ontario; LNG infrastructure in British Columbia; and yes, the continued responsible production of Alberta's oil sands resource.
It's about agreeing that ideas such as market access are matters of national interest, rising above sometimes parochial interprovincial disputes. There is no potential for Canada to play the increasingly important role we should in supplying the world with energy if we don't have a common commitment to make it happen. A Canadian energy strategy truly is about building bridges to the world and overcoming barriers within.
As prime minister John Diefenbaker declared in his opening campaign rally decades ago: "Canadians, realize your opportunities! This is only the beginning." He was referring to his government's call to spur development in every corner of the country, while ensuring Canadians realized greater value for our natural resources.
Today, 57 years later, his challenge must be taken up once again. I trust the premiers will seize the moment and sign onto a Canadian energy strategy that builds on our inherent strengths as an energy-producing country. They should be applauded for their leadership in doing so.