Alison Redford says Canada should use status as energy powerhouse to do global good

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

It's nice of Alberta Premier Alison Redford to have such concern for the rest of the world, suggesting the oil in her back yard should be used to spread North America's democratic principles around the world.

But her province's oilsands may not be the best way to sell democracy to the globe.

With a new report suggesting the U.S. is poised to become oil rich and end its reliance on oil from foreign markets, Alberta's premier says North America must use its future position to promote its democratic values around the world.

Via Postmedia News, Redford told a defence and security forum in Halifax:

We've never been shy about standing up for our ideals in many forums in many ways, whether it's human rights, social justice or democracy. And energy can help to serve those ends.

But there will always be the temptation to choose the opposite course. North American energy independence could lead, and some may fear, could lead North America to turn inwards, away from the demands and conflicts of a turbulent world.

Redford's concern is that, with foreign oil no longer necessary, North America and specifically the U.S. will go into hermit mode and pull away from the rest of the world.

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It is nice of her to worry, but an oil-rich U.S. will surely find some way to engage with the rest of the globe. That's where iPhones originated, after all.

It is more likely an oil-rich America wouldn't need Alberta's resources, however, which is probably where her concerns lie.

But with so many questions still stewing in Alberta's tar sand slurry, perhaps Redford should stay focused on getting her house in order before fixing the Middle East.

The province remains in a dispute with British Columbia over revenue sharing over the tar sands, according to the Canadian Press, as well as in limbo in relation to the construction of the massive Keystone XL pipeline all the way south to Texas.

These are the same oilsands, after all, that were panned by a collection of international ethical funds last month for their negative impact on the world's environment. The group, worth some $2-trillion in combined investments, said the industry needed to move faster to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

"We recognize the economic significance of the resource," the group said, according to the Globe and Mail. "But (we) are concerned that the current approach to development, particularly the management of the environmental and social impacts, threatens the long-term viability of the oilsands as an investment."

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And since she pointed to democratic principles, it is fair to note that Alberta's electoral officer is investigating a series of campaign donations made to her Progressive Conservatives that seem to link back to a single donor, Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.

Not to mention documents released by an opposition party on Monday alleging Redford's sister used taxpayer money to pay for Progressive Conservative events and fundraisers.

None of this is to take away from Canada's role in spreading democracy across the globe, of course. It is something Canada has done proudly since confederation.

But with so many questions surrounding the state of Alberta oil, perhaps it is best for Canada to stay the current course for now.