Most of Red Deer city council plans to attend a national conference in Quebec that’s being boycotted in principle by Medicine Hat civic leaders.
The six local councillors who will go to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference will use the opportunity to have a favourable discussion about Alberta pipelines in a province that opposes them, said Mayor Tara Veer.
“Our council is unanimous in its support of oil and gas,” she added — and so representatives will make a case for pipelines being the safest and most environmentally friendly distribution system.
That said, Red Deer’s mayor will not be among the politicians heading to Quebec City at the end of the month.
Veer and councillors Michael Dawe and Tanya Handley are skipping the conference, mostly for fiscal reasons.
Handley said it did cross her mind, when she heard the conference was in Quebec City, that a province that’s impeding Alberta’s economic interests maybe shouldn’t benefit from her attendance.
“But that’s not the main reason I’m not going,” she said, noting that she prefers to attend driveable conferences closer to home.
Veer felt the city was going to be well represented at the FCM event, and has other conference commitments.
Dawe said he doesn’t attend out-of-province conferences unless he has a particular interest in something on the agenda, or thinks he can make a unique contribution.
All three members of council feel Red Deer will benefit from representation at the FCM, since many issues affecting the city will be discussed at the conference.
Veer and Dawe believe there’s a case to be made for going to the conference and starting conversations that help change views about pipelines and the energy industry.
Coun. Lawrence Lee said he will be going to the FCM event, since he’s running for re-election as one of two urban municipal representatives from Alberta on the association board. He also believes many relevant issues will be discussed, so it’s good to have seats at the table.
The frustrations that led Medicine Hat city council to refuse to spend money in a province that isn’t friendly to Alberta’ energy industry is understandable to local councillors — although not all believe a boycott is the best response.
The mayor noted that while Red Deer and most Alberta communities have felt the sting of unemployment, Medicine Hat’s revenues from natural gas make that city even more directly impacted than most municipalities by resistance to the energy sector.
But Lee believes it makes sense to go to Quebec to argue that Alberta’s energy industry deserves the same distribution opportunities as other businesses.