CALGARY – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says what’s good for Alberta’s oil and gas industry is good for her province too.
“Oil and gas are clearly fundamental to Alberta’s economy and to Canada’s but also to Ontario’s — and I want everyone to know that I understand that and I want to advance that,” Wynne told a corporate crowd in Calgary on Friday.
“Many of our Ontario manufacturers now directly support your industry. I want us to build on that relationship.”
Wynne set a different tone than that of her predecessor on her first official visit to Alberta since she became premier of Canada’s most populous province in January.
Dalton McGuinty drew Alberta’s scorn last year when he said the oil and gas industry was driving up the loonie and making it more difficult for Ontario manufacturers to export their goods. He later softened his stance.
Wynne also made it clear that Alberta Premier Alison Redford has an ally in her push for a Canadian energy strategy, naming that effort one of her top priorities as chair of the Council of the Federation.
“We’ve agreed on common principles on the energy strategy — most of us have, not everybody,” Wynne said. “You know — it is Canada.”
“Together Ontario and Alberta will play a key role in helping us to get there.”
The debate over oil pipelines is heating up in Ontario. There are two major proposals in the works to ship Alberta crude through the province to eastern refineries and export points.
In her remarks, Wynne acknowledged how important it is to Alberta to get its resources to market — including via Ontario — but stressed the need for strong environmental oversight and First Nations consultation.
At hearings this month, many expressed concern over Enbridge Inc.’s (TSX:ENB) proposal to reverse the flow of its existing Line 9 oil pipeline between southwestern Ontario and Montreal and pump more Alberta crude through it.
TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) is planning a much bigger project to bring more than one million barrels of western crude a day as far east as Saint John, N.B. That proposal involves converting part of its existing Alberta-to-Quebec natural gas mainline and building 1,400 kilometres of new pipe to the East Coast.
Wynne told reporters after her speech that enabling Canadian crude to move across the country is in Ontario’s “best interest,” but said she understands concerns over safety.
“There will be challenges ahead. I am not naive to the reality that there will be many voices,” she said.
“But it’s my responsibility to confront that question and to better help people understand why it’s important that we find a way to work together on what I think is a national project.”
Unlike British Columbia, Wynne said Ontario isn’t making demands that it get a slice of the pipelines’ economic benefit through royalty revenues or another means.
In the past, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford have clashed over that question, though they’ve since taken a more conciliatory tone. The B.C. and Alberta premiers are to meet in Vancouver next month to discuss oil export projects.
In her speech, Wynne also tackled an issue on which Ontario and Alberta disagree — the formation of a national securities regulator.
Ontario, B.C. and the federal government recently announced plans to co-operate on regulating Canada’s investment industry, which Wynne says will make capital markets more efficient and effective.
Alberta and Quebec have opposed any federal efforts to unify Canada’s 13 separate securities regulators.
“I respect Alberta’s position, but I’d like to see if, as we go forward, we can address those concerns as we move to this single regulator, recognizing both of our provinces’ interests.”
Wynne also said there’s room for provinces to collaborate on improving the Canada Pension Plan so an aging population can support itself in retirement. She would also like to work together on a national strategy to invest in infrastructure.
Earlier Friday, Wynne and Redford met at a Calgary cafe. Redford gave Wynne a tiny pair of cowboy boots and a copy of the children’s book “Goodnight Moon” for her newborn grandson.