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Pembina Institute 2016 unGala!

"We are taking decisive action on a big problem, and we’re going to do our part to solve it."

Thank you very much Ed (Whittingham), and good evening:

  • Your Honour;
  • Premier Wynne;
  • Mark Rudolph and Annette Verschuren, our co-chairs tonight;
  • Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP;
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to join you tonight for the 2016 unGala!

I appreciate the wonderfully warm welcome you have all extended me.

And I especially appreciate all the cowboy hats! They make those of us here from Alberta feel right at home.

In addition to the hats, I want to thank all of you for supporting good public policy by coming out for this event tonight.

And thanks to the Pembina Institute for bringing us all together.

Pembina has always been a strong voice for progressive decision-making at every level of government in Canada.

And this might be a good night to say that progressive voices are doing fairly well, right across Canada right now.

In many jurisdictions, Canadians have come through a long night of conservative know-nothing, do-nothing, get-nothing-done records.

In our province of Alberta, it’s finally over!

In Alberta, voters have turned the page on wrong priorities, failed policies and bad choices.

Instead, voters have chosen change.

Voters have chosen progressive government with new people and new ideas…

…government willing to listen to the kind of ideas put forward by the kind of people who work at places like the Pembina Institute.

With the help of many good people like you, my government is taking our province in a new and better direction.

Like, for example, on the issue of climate change.

We are finally acting on this issue — with the same kind of determination that BC, Ontario and Quebec have demonstrated.

We will phase out coal emissions.

Today Alberta burns more coal than the rest of the country put together. We are currently dependent on this fuel for over 55 percent of our electricity supply.

We will phase out 100 percent of these emissions in the next 15 years. And replace two-thirds of this power with renewable energy.

We will phase in a carbon levy.

This levy will be an important tool to promote lower carbon emissions through a market-based incentive. It will also help finance an unprecedented investment program into energy efficiency, renewables, technology and a carefully managed adjustment to a lower-carbon future.

Indeed, I would suggest that Alberta will provide one of the greatest opportunities for innovators and investors in renewable energy and efficiency technologies.

And we will implement a cap on oil sands emissions, so that future development of our energy resources plays out sustainably…

… and in better balance with Canada’s global responsibility to address climate change.

Our predecessors in the government of Alberta were vilified around the globe for their refusal to step up to their responsibilities on these issues.

And our province has paid a heavy economic price as a result.

But now, thanks to the collaborative work done by organizations like the Pembina Institute, along with the leadership of forward-looking energy producers, our government is putting us where Albertans want to be…

…where we are used to being.

We are taking decisive action on a big problem, and we’re going to do our part to solve it.

As Ontario is doing.

As Quebec and BC are doing.

And as, hopefully, all of Canada will do…

… as we set aside the mistakes of the past…

… and move forward with a more —hopefully a MUCH more— progressive and forward-looking national agenda on issues like this.

After more than 40 years of one-party rule in Alberta, we definitely have our work cut out for us.

So we are counting on expert advice, as we lead the positive change Albertans sought in the last election.

*******

Now, as you know, this change is coming at a very difficult time for Alberta.

The economic downturn that is hurting all of Canada is biting severely in Alberta, due to a commodities price shock rippling around the world.

The price of oil isn’t just a number for us.

It’s a barometer for many things, from whether hotel rooms and restaurants in the small towns that service the old patch are empty or full…

..whether retail spending throughout the province is up or down…

… and whether companies invest for the future, or batten down the hatches to ride out the storm.

And most importantly, whether families feel the security of the preservation of job opportunities and the prosperity they bring to communities throughout our province.

These measures remind us again of the critical necessity for us to diversify our economy, so that we are less vulnerable to commodity prices we don’t control.

And that is what we are going to do.

My government is leading efforts to restore growth, encourage job creation, and promote diversification.

To that end, we have set out an economic development plan that is, among other things, mobilizing $2.1 billion in capital to support small and medium-sized business, entrepreneurs and promising companies.

This includes $1.5 billion in leading capacity for ATB financial, Alberta’s publicly owned, independently managed bank…

… and $540 million which has been refocused, to enable the Alberta Investment Management Corporation to target Alberta businesses with growth potential.

We are promoting new opportunities throughout our economy.

But diversification starts by building on our strengths.

And energy remains Alberta’s core strength.

In our province, oil prices still make the difference between whether many people have good, mortgage-paying jobs to care for their families, or they don’t.

And whether government has the revenue needed for key public services — like health care, education, income support and our work transitioning to a lower-carbon, lower-emissions, energy-efficient economy.

*******

Friends, the energy industry isn’t just a provincial industry.

Energy is a national industry with workers, goods and services, and investment marshalled all over the country.

Alberta alone accounts for about 19 percent of Canada’s GDP.

And a significant share of the economic benefits generated by our economy spill over to the rest of Canada.

More than 2,300 Canadian companies supply our energy industry, including over 1,100 here in Ontario — our country’s largest manufacturer.

In fact, exports from Ontario to Alberta increased by 120 percent from 1997 to 2012.

Nationally, the energy sector employs more than half a million Canadians.

But unfortunately, in the face of the current oil price shock, there have been about 100,000 direct and indirect layoffs Canada-wide.

Cuts to capital expenditures in Alberta mean that manufacturing and the wholesale trade are taking a hit across the country.

So, friends, all Canadians have an interest in supporting the development of a healthy, sustainable, export-oriented and increasingly environmentally responsible energy sector.

That means showing environmental leadership.

And that also means having the necessary infrastructure to get the best value we can from our energy resources, in markets all around the world.

Canadians recognize this, and so do their elected leaders.

Last spring, provinces and territories signed on to a declaration in Quebec City, put forward by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, setting out basic principles we will pursue on the climate change issue.

Last summer, Canada’s premiers finalized the Canadian Energy Strategy, in order to move forward together on both climate change and responsible energy development.

These fundamental policies recognize that environmentally responsible and sustainable energy is one of our country’s critically important natural resources.

Energy is one of the single most popular investment targets for international investors, many of whom funnel their investments through Toronto. And those investment dollars grow the economy, country-wide.

Unfortunately, the almost unprecedented drop in international oil prices is eroding that popularity.

We can combat that trend.

We can do so by presenting an integrated energy industry to the world.

One that produces responsibly. 

And one which —and this is critical— includes smart infrastructure that maximizes our markets, and the prices we can earn.

In short, we must be able to present to the world an intelligent, progressive and well-managed energy product.

And that cannot and will not happen without access to tidewater in our country.

Conclusion

I’m very hopeful that the fact that most governments in Canada are now like-minded on many issues means we are going to be able to work together effectively on the challenges facing our country.

We face some important economic challenges.

Let’s tackle them.

We all believe in universal public Medicare.

Let’s be good stewards of it.

Most of us believe in reducing inequality and poverty.

So let’s work together to do exactly that.

We know that climate change is caused by human activity, poses a grave threat to our environment and must be addressed.

So let’s stop talking and act.

This is an important moment in Canada’s history.

We have a great opportunity to put old squabbles behind us and to work together as partners and members of the great Canadian family..

..to build a greener, stronger, more sustainable, more prosperous, more equal, and more resilient country, together.

I’m looking forward to getting to it.

And I bet you are too.

Thank you.