“Alberta is a leader in the energy sector, but it is no longer enough to remain at the head of the pack in Canada or North America. In a world which is steadily getting smaller thanks to radical technological advances, we must set our sights on becoming global leaders.”
In the 64 years since the discovery of the Leduc No.1 oil field, Alberta has grown into one of the centres of the world energy industry. We play host to many of the most technologically sophisticated and business-savvy energy companies in the world, along with a whole ecosystem of suppliers, finance professionals and tradespeople who make Alberta a unique cluster of international energy excellence.
However, we must be more aggressive in developing and marketing our technical prowess. Alberta has the opportunity to play the kind of role in the global energy industry that Silicon Valley plays in the information technology industry, and we should seize the opportunity to position ourselves as the source of expertise, innovation and business know-how for energy projects around the world. Success abroad will greatly incr
ease wealth generation and the creation of highly skilled, well-paid jobs here at home.
While the United States remains a highly profitable export market, it is shrinking due to the development of indigenous resources, making it imperative that Alberta expand its customer base. In Asia, the world’s fastest-growing markets are being cultivated by our competitors. We must access these markets and we can do so by encouraging production, keeping costs low and supporting the development of export infrastructure off Canada’s west coast.
Alberta can make the most of its energy supplies by focusing on technologies that reverse production declines in existing basins and by investing in technologies that reduce the negative environmental impacts of energy production. The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers, but it should play a role in expediting the development of technology that will increase economic opportunities and improve Albertans’ quality of life. This includes providing fiscal incentives for home-grown technologies as well as helping to coordinate the development of these advances between the private and public sectors.
The Regulatory Enhancement Project is an example of what can be done to make the regulatory process thorough and efficient, but is only a first step. We are beginning to see increasing federal scrutiny and potential oversight of provincial regulatory policy covering air, water, land and carbon dioxide emissions. It is in everyone’s best interest to verify that Alberta’s regulatory policies are transparent, inclusive and systematic to avoid undue federal interference and to ensure effective joint responsibility where federal and provincial policies overlap. We must also focus on consulting with aboriginal communities and ensuring clarity for all parties involved in the development of Alberta’s energy resources.
Alberta’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. However, we still import workers from other provinces for some of our higher paying opportunities in design, construction and operation. While I support the free flow of skilled labour to keep costs low, we must focus our efforts on developing local labour resources first, particularly in regions like Athabasca-Grande Prairie and sectors like agriculture where unemployment remains unacceptably high.
Investing in technology is critical to greening hydrocarbon extraction. I will diversify the government’s $2 billion investment into carbon capture, putting funds into other methods like CO2 injection into tailings ponds and natural gas-fueled electricity cogeneration. The government’s role is not to pick winners by favouring one technology or company over another. Operating on the principle that all carbon emissions need to be cut, government should promote reduction through a variety of approaches. Ideally, several viable project-specific solutions will emerge, keeping the playing field level and Alberta’s energy sector competitive.
To build Alberta’s reputation as the world’s energy capital, we need to foster growth and innovation while protecting the natural environment and Albertans’ health and quality of life. We must avoid seeing regulation and development as opposing values.