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There is likely no province in the country more apprehensive about its future under a new federal government than Alberta.

For the past decade, the country was run by a prime minister who called the province his home. Stephen Harper's energy-first, environment-last approach suited the interests of those occupying the oil and gas towers of downtown Calgary – even if it didn't help get any pipelines built.

Now, everything has been turned on its head. Political power has been restored to its natural place: Central Canada. Alberta is once again an uneasy outlier. There is already much anguishing about what the future holds. Might this precipitate a return to the bad old days under the Liberals, a dreary epoch that spawned deep-seated resentment and feelings of Western alienation?

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Of course, no one wants that, least of all prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau. He is well aware of his father's legacy in the province; he doesn't want to be the author of a second act. But to avoid that, he is going to have to grapple with the same issue that made Pierre Trudeau the object of such enmity and loathing: energy.

Justin Trudeau's central problem is this: How does he support Alberta's oil and gas sector and assist in getting the province's crude to new markets, while simultaneously honouring his pledge to make real inroads in reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions?

Remember, the new federal leader hopes to go to Paris in late November for the UN climate talks with a plan judged to be worthy of altering the country's reputation as an environmental laggard.

If there is any good news for Mr. Trudeau, it is that there is already a growing awareness in Alberta that efforts to expand export opportunities for oil have to happen in collaboration with substantive efforts to combat climate change.

Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley was elected last spring on a platform that made reducing GHG emissions a central mission. She has already begun some of the consultative and policy work that will form the basis of changes on this front.

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford believes that Mr. Trudeau's election, on top of Ms. Notley's before his, has created a "tipping point" for environmental change, not just inside Alberta but across the country. She also thinks that a more activist federal government under the Liberal Leader could be the key to eventually building the kind of national energy strategy she once envisioned.

"There is no longer an energy agenda and an environmental agenda," Ms. Redford told me this week. "I think they are now completely combined and that's a good thing. The key is building a strong bridge between the two and I think Justin Trudeau can do it because of his approach and his desire to play more of a collaborative role with the provinces.

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"The key is finding a way of connecting the economic imperatives of the energy industry with the longer-term plan to deal with climate. To do that he'll need to get a lot of people to the table and quickly."

Mr. Trudeau will also need to clarify his position on a few of the big pipeline proposals. Is Enbridge's Northern Gateway (the proposed line from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C.) dead? During the election campaign he made it sound as if it were. But can he kill a project that has already received federal approval, albeit with conditions?

He said he wants to strengthen the environmental review process and has indicated he would make proponents of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, for example, be the subject of new, stiffer regulations. But is that possible, given that there are federal environmental review hearings for the company's expansion application already under way?

And what about TransCanada's Energy East project, which seems to be meeting increasing resistance inside Quebec, which is now a federal Liberal stronghold? Mr. Trudeau has sounded lukewarm on the plan.

The country's new leader can't be against everything. And he can't create chaos inside the energy industry by changing the rules in the middle of the game.

The challenge Mr. Trudeau faces on this front is immense. Depending on how he plays it, the "sunny ways" he has promised could be short-lived inside a province that has known an Ottawa chill before.

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