November 14th, 2019

Lobby group formed to advocate for Western Canadian energy development

By COLLIN GALLANT on November 9, 2019.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

A new lobbying effort by municipalities to promote Western Canadian energy development to the federal government has support among regional politicians in southeastern Alberta, including those who had been split on whether previous efforts would do any good.

On Friday, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities announced it would form a “Western Economic Taskforce” to give cities and counties a chance to “develop solutions” to advocate for energy projects.

That’s the same organization that was at the centre of controversy last spring when the City of Medicine Hat council voted to boycott an FCM conference in Quebec City, over that provincial government’s stance on pipeline development.

At the same conference, Cypress County Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit and Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita attended, vowing to use it as a venue to make Alberta’s issues known.

Pipeline development is top of mind, said both men, with Kurpjuweit adding this week that economic issues should far outweigh lobbying and resources in other areas.

“The economy and uncertainty is the biggest issue facing communities — even the question of how we meet our budgets,” he said, adding that he felt the frustration from Alberta delegates was noticeable and the new committee is the result.

“A lot of people are frustrated and venting, and we need to address it now.”

Medicine Hat Coun. Brian Varga, who attended previous FCM conferences and was vocal about the Quebec issue, stated that local council’s decision was based on the location in Quebec, not the effectiveness of FCM.

“(The task force is) not a bad idea, but if it doesn’t get backing from the (federal) Liberals, where does it go?” he stated.

He felt the effort would help Medicine Hat specifically as an oil and gas producer, as well as a utility company.

“It’s a direct line to the prime minister’s office … and there’s room for more aggressive advocacy,” said Kurpjuweit.

Morishita is also the president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, and will be part of the working group, as will the head of the Rural Municipalities Association in Alberta, their counterparts in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as the mayors of the five biggest cities on the prairies.

Morishita also said the initial lobbying at the Quebec City conference led to the task force, which will meet this month to develop an action plan.

“I think it was a good first step in getting people to take notice of what’s happening in Alberta, and this is the next step,” he told the lobby group.

“As the mayor of Brooks, Alberta, I’ll obviously be advocating for energy projects.”

A statement from FCM states the hope is to gather elected officials from the west to directly meet with federal government officials “to ensure the perspectives of western communities are voiced, and to drive new solutions on how to best support them through this economic crisis.”

“FCM has already called on the Government of Canada to support our country’s energy producing regions through nation-building energy infrastructure projects, including projects that support a responsible transition to renewable energies,” it reads. “Now, we are taking the next step by actively fostering more of those solutions to this complex array of challenges.”

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