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Montreal Chambre de Commerce speech

"We want to be able to make decisions about our future, while co-operating together."

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Merci pour cette amiable introduction.

Et merci à tous d’être ici aujourd’hui.

Pour commencer, je suis fière de vous rappeler que les québécois et les albertains ont des liens  d’amitié forts, ainsi que des valeurs et des intérêts communs.

Ma première visite officielle, à l’extérieur de l’Alberta, à titre de première ministre, a eu lieu a Québec avec le premier ministre Couillard.

Je suis ici pour continuer à construire nos relations exceptionnelles.

We are important to each other.

We agree on much vis-à-vis the federal government.

And we have many common views on social, fiscal and environmental issues.

We want to live in progressive societies that are prosperous, growing, and that effectively address inequality and poverty.

We want to be able to make decisions about our future, while co-operating together.

And we want good health care, good schools, sound public finance… and a responsible approach to the environment.

Pour réussir, les québécois et les albertains doivent travailler ensemble, et c’est pour cela que je suis ici aujourd’hui.

I’m going to update you on how things are going in Alberta, and about our plan for the future.

And I want to speak to you in a little more detail about a critically-important common interest – climate change and the environment.

In doing this, I’m hoping to begin to change some of underlying assumptions about energy infrastructure. 

There are those who argue that we should not be working together on these issues.

Because they believe – not entirely without cause, up to now -- that the Government of Alberta hasn’t been stepping up to its responsibilities on the climate change issue.

That is going to change.

The new government of Alberta that I lead intends to do a better job – a much better job -- at living up to our responsibility to be part of the solution on climate change.

By doing this, we will then be able to address energy issues on their economic and environmental merits, in a new atmosphere of greater trust as well as mutual economic interest. 

Let me begin by saying that the challenges that the people and Government of Alberta face are not small.

A year ago today, energy prices were strong. A barrel of oil traded at $95.55 (U.S.). Last week prices were in the $46 range.

This very significant economic shock has implications across the country, including Quebec.

The federal government’s finances, and therefore its ability to support programs and transfers for all Canadians, have taken a significant hit.

And the broader private-sector economy across the country has lost a significant pillar of growth.

These realities are confronting the Government of Alberta with a very tough fiscal challenge.

We ran a $1.1 billion surplus last year.

Our predecessors in office projected that our province would run more than a $5 billion deficit this year.

Since that estimate, pressure has continued on oil prices, and therefore on provincial finances. That deficit may end up being higher.

These are tough challenges.

Put up against this, we have some significant advantages to build on.

Alberta has world-class universities and colleges, and one of Canada’s youngest and best-educated workforces.

Our province still has, by far, the lowest overall provincial taxes in Canada, with no sales tax.

We have, by far, the lowest provincial debt in Canada – zero net debt, all in.

We have an innovative, flexible capital market.

And as much as our energy industry is under pressure, our world-leading energy companies have the experience and ability to cope with the volatility in the energy sector.

Now, we don’t change our government all that often in Alberta.

The last time a new Albertan premier ventured out of the province to introduce a new government was in 1971. His name was Peter Lougheed.

My government is working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible, and to bring economic stability while we implement our plans.

Those plans center on our commitment to grow prosperity and to create good jobs and conditions that will be widely and fairly shared.

We know there is only one way to succeed.

And that’s by supporting an open, sustainable and increasingly diversified economy.

We recognize that job creators create jobs in the private sector, not government.

And so we will be honest and thoughtful partners to them.

Alberta will be a healthy place for private investment under our government.

Our energy industry is at the heart of our economy, and will be for many years to come.

Looking for new opportunities in our energy economy, and pioneering advanced technologies — all this will continue to require investment on a large scale.

So under our leadership, Alberta’s abundant oil and gas reserves will remain open to investment.

We will maintain one of the most competitive tax systems in Canada.

Our government will boost exports by seeking out new relationships, strengthening old ones and enhancing Alberta’s environmental record.

And we will be consultative and prudent in how we take the province in a new and better direction.

We don’t control the international price of oil.

We therefore have to manage the hand we have been dealt, while working to diversify our economy and working to reduce our dependence on a single product, a single price, and a single market.

We can also work on strong, progressive policies that move us forward and position us to build on these resources as prices recover.

For example, this July the Canadian Energy Strategy was endorsed and adopted by every provincial and territorial government in Canada, at the Council of the Federation meeting.

The Canadian Energy Strategy is a very important inter-governmental framework, that will help Canadian governments align on an environmentally-responsible, sustainable, and prudently managed development of Canada’s energy resources and energy potential.

There were some important competing views on these issues.

But ultimately, conducting inter-provincial business respectfully while recognizing our common interest will always be the best strategy.

In my view…

… and in the view of the Government of Alberta…

Our only road to achieving those economic goals is by getting it right on the environment.

Sur l’enjeu de l’environnement, le premier ministre Couillard et moi sommes du même avis. Les albertains et les québécois veulent que leurs gouvernements agissent de manière décisive et responsable, en particulier sur la question du climat.

I was therefore pleased to add Alberta’s signature to the Climate Change declaration Premier Couillard put before the Summit on Climate Change in Quebec held on April 14th.

We are listening carefully to Albertans about this issue, because Albertans feel strongly – as do many business leaders in the energy industry – that it is long, long past due for the Government of Alberta to get it right on the environment.

Air pollution and poor air quality is a direct threat to the health of our children and our seniors.

Albertans know all too well that environmental issues – and specifically, the issue of climate change – is a key global problem that every community and every jurisdiction must help address – especially energy producing jurisdictions like ours.

If we don’t get it right on this issue, a solution is going to be imposed on us – sooner or later – by others. By the federal government, and by our markets, who will increasingly insist that energy products they buy be mined and processed responsibly. If we want a made-in-Alberta environmental policy that works for Alberta and keeps our capital in Alberta, then the time to act is now.

And finally, our province also needs to act because doing so is going to be the price of admission to those energy markets.

I’m going to return to this issue in a moment.

But just before I do, let me give you a brief report on some other critical matters we are dealing with as a government.

If you follow energy industry news, you probably know we are conducting a review of our province’s royalties.

This review is about modernizing and updating our royalty system, so that it fits our future energy industry instead of its past.

This review is about considering whether there are ways to better manage our royalties so that they better support processing, diversification and value-added development – with the associated jobs and growth –in Alberta.

And this review is about ensuring that as prices recover, we collect and begin to save an appropriate share of our own resource wealth in the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, for the future of our grandchildren.

The time is past due – long past due – for the Government of Alberta to return to a responsible, long-term approach to collecting and investing our royalty wealth – so that we stop being the farmer who pays for the groceries by selling the farm’s topsoil.

Now let’s speak about Alberta’s broader fiscal challenges.

We have seen drops in the price of oil many times before.

And we’ll see price cycles many times in the future.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the kind of revenue shocks we are having to deal with.

We’ll be setting out the details of how we intend to manage this situation in the provincial budget we will present the week of October 26th.

We are looking to achieve three things.

First, we are going to stabilize social services, and we are going to correct some mistakes that in our view the previous government made in managing our public finances.

We have already taken some first steps in that direction during the spring session of our legislature.

And this question of how we can stabilize key services like health care and education and make sure they are there for those who need them – in the context of a prudent, responsible and sustainable budget – is very much on our minds as we do this work.

Second, we will present a plan to return to fiscal balance.

During price shocks like the one we’re seeing now, the provincial budget plays an important role as one of our province’s principle economic “shock absorbers”.

With that role comes responsibility.

Specifically, it makes no sense to respond to layoffs and job loss in the economy by making things worse through more layoffs and more job loss.

And as the economy recovers, we will make sure the provincial government’s bottom line will also recover.

That will require the Government of Alberta to very carefully and prudently manage the growth of public expenditure, and to look for opportunities to reallocate funds from lower priority areas to higher ones.

The circumstances we find ourselves demand that we follow a disciplined and clear plan that allows the government to play its “shock absorber” role in the short term, while returning to balance as quickly as possible.

That’s what we’re going to do.

Finally, the Government of Alberta has an important role to play as a partner to job creators, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.

It is more important than ever to get that role right when we are managing an oil price shock.

There are a number of things the Government of Alberta should and will do, in the face of this challenge.

Alberta has always been and will always be a great place to live, explore new ideas, and to launch a new business.

Being a good place to start a new business is not good enough for me!

We want Alberta to be a great place to start a new business, to build on a new innovation, to get a new idea off the ground.

Which is, by the way, not about a race to the bottom on taxes.

Albertans are willing and ready to pay for well-managed, prudently budgeted health care, education and public services.

These are foundations of both a good society, and a good climate for growth and investment – in each and every one of our communities.

Becoming Canada’s best place to start and grow a business is about operating a province with a modern, efficient infrastructure – and investing to make that so.

It is about access to capital.

It is about supporting innovation.

It is about trade development, and single-minded in attracting inward investment throughout our economy.

It is about reforming the way we structure government, so that we are easy to work with – one-stop shopping for government business services.

This is what our plan is about, and we will spell it out further in our budget.

And then, we will lay out our plans on the environment.

Followed by which, we will be joining Quebec, and Ontario, and a number of other Canadian jurisdictions, to speak to the world about environmental issues at the COP21 conference in Paris.

So let me complete my remarks today by telling you a little more about our approach to climate change and the environment.

As I said earlier, this matter requires our immediate attention.

It is about public health.

It is a global problem that requires action from all of us.

It is an issue we must act on, or a solution will be sooner or later be imposed on us by others.

And it is a matter we must address, if we want to continue to have access to our markets.

For all of these reasons, this spring our government launched a climate change review panel.

This panel is currently consulting with Albertans, industry partners, and experts.

Later this fall with the benefit of their advice, we will set out our plan.

I expect that we will be speaking to four issues.

First, coal.

Our province is heavily dependent on coal for our electricity.

We reply on coal-fired plants for about 55% of our supply.

Alberta burns more coal than the rest of Canada put together.

We will be looking for a strategy to phase out the use of coal as quickly as we reasonably can -- without imposing unnecessary price shocks on consumers; or risking security of supply; or unnecessarily stranding capital.

Second, renewable energy.

We need a roadmap to renewable energy, and we need to get the economics of that conversion right.

There is a lot of good news in the field of renewable energy, which is increasingly price-competitive.

A number of Alberta’s energy companies have invested in renewable energy production. So we are accumulating some best-of-class experience with these new energy alternatives.

Third, energy efficiency.

Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada without an energy efficiency program.

That is unacceptable, and we will change this.

There are some important opportunities here for partnership between government and industry – and for job creation.

And on all of these issues, there are excellent opportunities for partnership with manufacturers and investors here in Quebec. We have been discussing these opportunities with Premier Couillard.

Finally, carbon pricing.

We made a first move on this question in the spring, when we tripled the net effect of our province’s existing regulatory system, governing the cost of carbon.

The net price of carbon in Alberta has increased but still remains relatively low.

But we have demonstrated that it is possible to act meaningfully on carbon pricing for sound economic and environmental reasons, without triggering economic hardship.

On all of these issues, we will phase in change prudently, as our economy recovers.

And we are determined that our solution will keep our capital in Alberta.

We must do this, so that we have the means to diversify and broaden our economy in the years and decades to come, as the world evolves towards a decarbonized future.

We may therefore address climate change using different tools than Ontario and Quebec will use.  A national cap and trade program may not be our best road forward.

But we will be working towards the same goals… at long last.

We will be working towards a prosperous, sustainable and growing economy…

…whose benefits are widely shared…

…and that is environmentally responsible.

I’m very much looking forward to being part of a delegation of Canadian governments at COP21.

A delegation that will be able to look the world in the eye.

A delegation that can say – truthfully, at last –that our country will be doing more of its share to address one of the world’s challenges.

En terminant je vous invite à nous visiter en Alberta.

Dans mon cas, c’est une deuxième visite au Québec en quatre mois!

Franchement c’est à votre tour de vous déplacer.

Comme visiteurs, travailleurs, investisseurs, partenaires…

Et surtout comme co-citoyen et ami.

Vous êtes chez VOUS, chez NOUS.

Merci de votre reception et de votre amitié!