Calgary councillors reach out to Victoria over energy spat


While one Calgary city councillor is urging his Victoria counterparts to better understand Alberta’s energy industry, another says Albertans should appreciate those B.C. lawmakers’ concerns.

Coun. Ward Sutherland has produced a video inviting Victoria city councillors to Alberta to see the province’s “ethical” energy production firsthand after those politicians voted to endorse a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for the industry’s environmental damage.

“We’re making a commitment to advocate and educate,” said Sutherland, adding he’s sent an information package to Victoria city hall.

In the video, he points out Vancouver Island is dependent on fuel-burning ferries and two million people a year visit Victoria by aircraft.

“Your city is not immune to using this valuable resource,” he says in the video.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has also sent a letter to Victoria with a similar message.

Fellow councillor Druh Farrell said she doesn’t totally disagree with that message, particularly the call for people to come together on the issue of hypocrisy.

“There’s an element of hypocrisy in them promoting liquid natural gas while attacking oil and gas,” Farrell said of some B.C. politicians.

But she questioned the merit of those tactics, saying they haven’t won Alberta many friends.

And Farrell said there’s a reason why those Victoria councillors would take that position.

“We can’t forget for the last several years their province has been burning up,” she said of increasingly severe wildfires many climate scientists say have been exacerbated by climate change.

“Hopefully, we’ll all treat the climate crisis with the urgency it requires … We knew this day was coming and a reckoning for the industry.”

Even so, she said singling out the energy industry as the villain leaves the rest of the country off the hook.

“Canadians criticizing oil and gas need to examine their own behaviour and lead by example,” said Farrell. “Rather than one city working against the other, it’s time to set aside the differences and examine our own behaviour … Spats between cities isn’t helping.”

Sutherland said his message doesn’t deny climate change nor does it challenge the viewpoint that more needs to be done to lessen emissions.

“We’d say, ‘we actually agree with you — our invitation is to see how we reduce that carbon footprint,’” he said.

That narrative, he said, will be expressed by a host of Alberta centres at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities at its annual conference in Quebec City May 30 to June 2.

If any of the Victoria politicians accepted his invitation, they’d be guided by third-party organizations at private expense, said Sutherland.

Requests to Victoria city councillors for comment went unanswered Friday.

While some oilpatch defenders have pointed to Victoria’s habit of pumping sewage into the Pacific Ocean as a sign of hypocrisy, Sutherland said he steered clear of mentioning that in his invitation.

“I don’t want to be tit-for-tat, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

The B.C. city’s capital region is currently building a $765-million waste treatment plant to handle that flow.

The face-off between the politicians is the latest flare-up between B.C. and Alberta over energy and the environment.

Last month, Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton apologized after his town asked Calgary-based CNRL to compensate them for environmental costs which led to businesses backing out of a conference there.

And B.C.’s provincial government has opposed the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast.

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn


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