On the heels of the first meeting of the Alberta-Ottawa working group, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she recognizes that interim targets need to be in place when it comes to emissions reductions in oil and gas — even if there is yet to be alignment on when and how that should take place.
Speaking to host Kathleen Petty on the CBC’s West of Centre podcast Thursday, Smith said both levels of government were in alignment on a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. But Smith has long been opposed to Ottawa’s 2030 targets requiring the oil and gas sector to cut emissions by 42 per cent below 2019 levels.
She hesitated in suggesting an alternative to that 2030 target — saying the proper work hadn’t yet been completed to get there — while acknowledging the necessity of it eventually being put in place.
“We’re working with [Ottawa] to figure out what the interim steps are going to take to get there, and what they need from us — not only from a regulatory point of view, but also an investment point of view, a tax credit point of view,” Smith said.
“There’s a number of different things that we’ve got to put in place to enable that. And it requires the federal and provincial government working together. We want to get the common set of facts … we recognize there has to be some kind of interim steps so that people can see progress.”
The governments of Alberta and Canada met Sept. 12 in the first meeting of a working group, intended to focus on finding consensus around emissions reduction and energy development.
Smith said discussion was ongoing about additional timelines in place for electricity decarbonization, a separate part of the 2050 targets.
“Capital Power has been very open in saying that they believe they can get a 2045 emissions target. Some of the other electricity companies would say that they can do it a little bit faster. Some others say they need a little bit more,” she said. Capital Power is a power generation company based in Edmonton.
In July, federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he believed Alberta could get its electricity grid to net-zero by 2035, something Smith has referred to as being too aggressive.
LISTEN | Hear the full interview on the CBC’s West of Centre podcast as Premier Danielle Smith discusses her view on interim targets, developments in carbon capture, and more:
West of Centre31:42A premiere with the premier
Relationship has been rocky
The past number of weeks have been marked by tension between Smith and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.
In an interview with The Canadian Press published last month, Guilbeault had been critical of Suncor CEO Rich Kruger, stating that his comments during a second-quarter results conference call suggested Kruger had disengaged from climate change and sustainability to focus on short-term profit.
“If I was convinced before that we needed to do regulation, I am even more convinced now,” Guilbeault said at the time.
Kruger later pushed back against that characterization of his company’s plans in a column in the Calgary Herald.
Draft regulations planned by the federal government to cap emissions are expected to be published later this year.
Smith would later suggest that Guilbeault’s criticism of the Calgary-based oilsands company showed “utter contempt” for Alberta, and on CBC’s Power and Politics would go a step further — saying the federal government should tell the environment minister that he should “put a sock in it” and, further, that he should “zip it.”
When asked by Petty on West of Centre if such language helped keep lines of communication open, Smith said what didn’t help was targets being stipulated by the federal government that should’ve been discussed collaboratively.
“I can obviously give as good as I get. And if he’s going to continue doing that kind of action, I’m going to have to respond to it,” she said. “I think it’d be far better if he dialed it down, so that we can make sure that we negotiate and get what everybody wants.”
Smith was complimentary of other members of the federal cabinet, including federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who Smith said had “done some great work” on the Trans Mountain pipeline and on carbon capture, utilization and storage.
She added that, in her view, she had positive relationships with federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne and federal Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
“I don’t have a terrible relationship with all the ministers and the federal government. I just feel like Steven Guilbeault was not being constructive, and I’m going to call him out when he isn’t,” Smith said.
After Smith’s initial comments saying that Guilbeault had shown “utter contempt” for Alberta, a spokesperson in his office told CBC News that the creation of a cap was in the minister’s mandate letter and was a platform commitment.
“This is not a threat or a surprise … The government of Canada has been very clear, the cap is going after emissions, not production,” wrote Oliver Anderson.