Opinion: This federal election may be the most important in Alberta’s history

For many in Alberta, it can be hard to get excited about a federal election, given the high probability that candidates representing the Conservative Party of Canada are going to sweep the vast majority of the 34 ridings in our province, while the balance of power lies in whatever happens east of Manitoba.

Alberta has more riding on this election than any in recent history, given the stark contrast in the platforms presented thus far. Especially given the weight placed on the energy and environmental file through this election cycle.

Start with Bill-C69, unaffectionately referred to as the “No More Pipelines Bill,” or Bill-C48, the “Tanker Ban Bill,” discriminately targeting the transport of Alberta crude along the northern coast of British Columbia.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association was quoted as saying, “It is difficult to imagine that any major new pipeline projects will be proposed or built in the future.”

To make matters worse, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has mused publicly about “phasing out the oilsands.”

If neither bills C-69 or C-48 are repealed, the prosperity of Alberta’s largest and most productive industry will remain forever kneecapped.

The NDP has made it clear where their priorities lie in the event they are elected, or hold the balance of power in a minority government.

Leader Jagmeet Singh has said he will not impose a pipeline on an unwilling province and would grant Quebec veto powers for any pipeline proposing to cross the province.

He could not even voice unequivocal support for liquified natural gas projects, whose exports displace the use of far dirtier coal in Asian countries.

Green Party policy rejects any new pipeline, fracking and even an increase in the number of oil wells and barrels of heavy oil production.

Any and all of the above are and would be absolutely devastating to the Alberta economy, and defy logic.

Demand for oil and gas is expected to increase until 2040, thanks to a ballooning middle class in countries such as China and India.

Alberta is home to the third largest oil reserves and the most socially, environmentally and efficient jurisdiction at resource extraction, competing directly against countries such as Saudia Arabia, Iran and Russia for their share in the world market.

A recent report estimated that if all energy consumed in the world was replaced by Canadian oil and gas, it would be the equivalent to taking 110 million cars off the road.

It’s difficult for Albertans, many of whom work in the energy industry, to not feel a sense of hostility from those vying for the most powerful job in our country.

Albertans rightly feel a great sense of pride for the work they do to create a safe and reliable source of energy to heat our homes, fuel our transportation and produce a plethora of goods.

I can’t go on without mentioning the billions of dollars that flow into government coffers and pay for invaluable services as a result of the energy industry.

This animus toward the oil and gas sector is stoking resentment and feelings of alienation in the West. Alberta separatist movements are gaining momentum, and a split, or even the perceived risk of a split in Confederation, will wreak havoc on capital markets and private investment.

As we are seeing from Brexit, the questions and difficulties raised from such a split are endless.

On the other side of the political spectrum, both the Conservative Party of Canada and the People’s Party of Canada have made campaign promises to repeal bills C-48 and C-69.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced his party’s policy to create a national transportation and utility corridor, a longtime position advocated by chambers of commerce.

This corridor would be a pre-approved passageway for major linear projects, including pipelines and additional rail capacity.

There is a strong argument to be made for the corridor travelling through central Alberta. The potential economic benefit of such a project is staggering.

Chambers of commerce are by nature, non-partisan. Yet, we can and do distinguish between government policy that is good for the economy, and policy that is not.

Kneecapping or phasing out the most socially and environmentally responsible oil and gas producing jurisdiction in the world, while demand is expected to rise for the next 21 years, is poor policy from both an environmental and economic standpoint.

Red Warkentin is policy and advocacy manager for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce.

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