File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Pumpjacks are shown pumping crude oil near Halkirk. Red Deer city council unanimously passed a resolution that reaffirms its support for the oil and gas industry that employs thousands of city residents.

Red Deer city council reaffirms support for pipelines, as well as sustainability, diversification

Ottawa needs to show stronger leadership, says councillor

Red Deer city council agreed Monday to advocate for economic diversification and environmental sustainability, as well as pipelines.

Council unanimously passed a resolution that reaffirms its support for the oil and gas industry that employs thousands of city residents and fuels the local economy. But it gave equal weight to advocating for environmental sustainability and economic diversification as it did for lobbying for new pipeline construction and improved energy market access.

Mayor Tara Veer later said these elements were always part of the discussion, so council wanted them added to the proposed resolution drafted by administration. But the need for new or expanded pipelines dominated the conversation around the council table.

Councillors spoke strongly — and at some length — on why it’s important to support Alberta’s energy industry. Reasons ranged from speaking up for community interests to recognizing the importance of oil to Canada and to the everyday lives of Canadians.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said Alberta’s economy must diversify and transition over the next 20 to 30 years to renewable energy. But she pointed out most people don’t drive electric cars yet, and they still depend on a wide range of products that come from the petroleum industry — everything from plastic products, including medical equipment to the heating of their homes.

Noting the runaway train that destroyed a Quebec town, Wyntjes also was among the councillors who stressed pipelines are still the safest way of transporting oil and gas.

Coun. Ken Johnston said, “Canada is the most wonderful country … but somehow, we’ve managed to put a chokehold on our most vital industry.”

He feels red tape has unnecessarily delayed projects that would create foreign markets for Canadian oil.

“Somewhere out there, some sense and sensibility has to occur … We find ourselves with a plugged system.”

Coun. Vesna Higham blames the federal government for sending mixed messages and weakening investment in Canada’s energy sector. Leaders in Ottawa must send a clear message about the importance of oil and gas to the national economy, she said.

“Alberta needs to get back to being the economic engine of Canada,” added Coun. Tanya Handley.

Red Deer city council was recently among more than 100 municipalities that endorsed a letter to the prime minister from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, calling for more federal action to advance the Trans Mountain pipeline.

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