Alberta must defend itself, says senator

This is the moment you either stand for Alberta, or you don’t, says Alberta Senator Doug Black, who was in Red Deer on Monday.

Speaking to a room full of people at a Rotary Club of Red Deer luncheon, Black said he sees every day the anti-Alberta attitude in other parts of Canada, the lack of representation, and the lack of support for the oil-producing province.

“I’m puzzled by the fact Alberta is having so much difficulty with pipelines. Why can’t we get a pipeline across Quebec? Across B.C.? So it causes us to think, why is that?” he said.

There are worries and hardships ahead and it’s time Albertans stick together, said Black in an interview after his speech.

Black believes conciliation and co-operation can prove worthwhile for the provincial and the federal governments. One way to resolve differences is to negotiate, but it takes two willing partners, Black insisted.

“The incoming premier, for whom I have tremendous respect, needs to sit down with the prime minister and see if grand bargaining can be worked out, and hopefully it can be. But if not, then Alberta needs to sit down and say ‘OK, how do we protect our interest here,’” Black said.

“Initially, we need to come up with a grand bargain: We will do this, if you do that. We expect this, if we do that,” Black said, adding the grand bargain can include the carbon tax and a cap on oilsands emissions.

“People are being very aggressive to Alberta because of Alberta’s political stands in those regards.”

Pointing to Bill C-69, Black said the legislation should be put in the shredder, but that isn’t realistic, so instead, he wants to see amendments.

The bill changes how major infrastructure projects are assessed and approved, including oil and gas pipelines. The bill was passed in the House of Commons and sits with the Senate for review.

“We need to have some form of certainty. It’s been too uncertain for too long and investment continues to flee. So we need some certainties. So the answer here is to amend that bill to make it workable so people will actually propose projects in this country and we’ll have projects approved,” he said.

He said people and investment are moving away from Alberta, including those in Red Deer and Calgary, to look for meaningful careers elsewhere, such as in Houston, Texas, and Dubai.

Another bill the senator does not support is Bill C-48 – a proposed tanker ban off the northern coast of B.C. Black said the bill needs to be defeated because it’s “awful” and “prejudicial.”

“It’s aimed directly at oilsands in Alberta and that is not fair, and no national government in my opinion should be putting forth legislations that so clearly discriminates against one region or one province, but they have and it needs to be killed.

“Can it be? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”

He said Alberta’s energy industry contributes about 20 per cent of the Canadian economy.

But there’s a narrative out there that the Alberta energy industry is not environmentally friendly, or is “dirty,” said the senator.

“It’s just wrong. When you compare Canadian development of energy to any other place in the world, we are the gold standard in terms of environment,” he said.

“And the only people who don’t seem to know we’re gold standard are Canadians.”

He said he invited Quebec Premier Fancois Legault to tour the oilsands and see everything first hand around Christmastime of last year. But the senator hasn’t heard back, he said, adding the invitation is open.

The government will delay any decisions relating to the Trans-Mountain pipeline until after the federal election, Black predicted, saying he hoped he is wrong.

“It’s been going on way too long, and it’s only an expansion … it’s expansion of an existing line, but it’s just become a flash point of all this anger and contest between the industry and environmentalists.

“It’s become more of a symbol than anything else, but I think it will be built.”

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Alberta Senator Doug Black was in Red Deer Monday. He stopped at the luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Red Deer where he gave a speech and met those who were present. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

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