This past week in Alberta politics exhibited some unusual activity. Unusual because it was activity departing from previous patterns. Premier Alison Redford is championing a Pan Canadian Energy Strategy and her government has decided to join the Health Council of Canada, though her predecessors never felt compelled to belong to this largely useless forum since it was formed nearly a decade ago. Quebec is not a member.
The discussion of a national energy strategy is a canard because it means so many different things to many different people, as Andrew Coyne pointed out in this piece. To some, and this may include Redford, such strategy may mean a pursuit of greater markets for Canada’s energy resources, but to others it means a radical environmental agenda that seeks to shut down Alberta’s oil Sands, pipelines, and so forth. These two views are polar opposites and mutually exclusive.
Until recently, Quebec Premier Jean Charest was peddling as his energy strategy a carbon market based in Montreal, which would have become the Canadian incarnation of the idea that made Al Gore a bigger millionaire. Fortunately, the carbon market idea flopped.
Joining the Health Council is somewhat different. It is harmless and largely meaningless. Alberta does not have much to learn from the health systems of other provinces, and whatever it may have to teach them they can learn it without the province being part of the Council. Other than it being a waste of time, at least joining the Council poses no threat to Alberta provincial autonomy.
Both moves will achieve nothing tangible. Both moves are not in the long run in the best interests of Alberta. But they do afford Redford the opportunity to portray herself to the rest of Canada as politically innovative and as a kinder and more cooperative leader.