Alberta and Federal Environment Ministers Have First Face-to-Face Meeting

By Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.
July 19, 2023Updated: July 19, 2023

Alberta’s new Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz had an in-person meeting Wednesday with her federal counterpart, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, and discussed Ottawa’s pending electricity regulations and emissions, but it wasn’t clear how much consensus, if any, the two jurisdictions reached on the issues.

“I informed Minister Guilbeault that our government remains resolutely opposed to any federal cap on oil and gas emissions or electricity regulations that are not expressly consented to by Alberta and that do not align with Alberta’s emissions reduction and energy development plan,” said Ms. Schulz in a statement following the meeting on July 19.

She said the meeting included discussion of the federal government’s pending clean electricity regulations, and Ottawa’s “plans to implement a de facto production cap on oil and gas producers, emission reductions, plastics, oil sands mine water management, and other topics.”

“We also discussed the previously announced joint working group to discuss emissions reduction innovation and technology, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage,” said Ms. Schulz.

The province has requested that Ottawa share all available data, analysis, cost estimates, and risk assessments related to Alberta’s and Canada’s economy, as well as to the well-being and sustainability of municipalities and First Nation communities, jobs, and socioeconomic impacts, with respect to the planned electricity regulations and oil and gas emissions cap.

“Although the federal government has not yet shared these details, Minister Guilbeault committed to sharing this information through the bilateral working group,” said Ms. Schulz.

She said that while Alberta aspires to achieve a carbon-neutral power grid and oil and gas sector by 2050, the two governments have to “agree on how we get there.”

“Canada and Alberta have an opportunity right now to lead in emissions reduction and still ensure a competitive, sustainable energy development to meet global energy demands. We can do this in a way that does not jeopardize jobs, energy security, and affordability,” said Ms. Schulz.

She said that Canadian families cannot afford costly policies and targets that might cost jobs.

“We need common sense, practical solutions, and innovative approaches that cut emissions and create jobs—not ideology,” said the minister.

The federal government’s own data indicates that the oil and gas industries are one of the biggest contributors to Canada’s economy, responsible for $175 billion to the country’s GDP in 2017, along with 276,000 direct jobs and up to 900,000 jobs indirectly—about 5 percent of the national workforce.

Net Zero Goal

The federal environment minister is responsible for Ottawa’s federal 2030 goal to reach net zero.

Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith has been critical about statements regarding fossil fuels made by Mr. Guilbeault recently while meeting with his counterparts in Europe, Mexico, India, Japan, China, and other countries on climate issues in Brussels in advance of the annual COP meeting held by the United Nations.

Ms. Smith said she was “alarmed to read the minister’s belief that oil and gas production is likely to be reduced by 75 percent by 2050.”

“This belief does not align with any credible forecast of future world energy consumption, which continue to see oil and gas dominating the energy supply mix for decades to come,” she said.

Mr. Guilbeault had said that COP28 could be the first to acknowledge “the need to phase out unabated fossil fuels.”

The premier said Alberta “will not recognize any federally imposed emission-reduction targets for our energy and electricity sectors under any circumstances unless such targets are first consented to by the Government of Alberta.”

“Nor will Alberta recognize any right of the federal government to legislate or regulate in this exclusive area of provincial jurisdiction, or any area of shared constitutional jurisdiction, without the explicit approval of Alberta,” said the premier.

She called on Trudeau to “instruct his involved ministers to respect the rights and jurisdiction of all provinces on this and other related matters, and to do a more effective job of building investor confidence in Canada’s oil and gas sector as profitable, certain, and the most environmentally responsible on Earth.”

Doug Lett contributed to this report.