Alberta and Saskatchewan shouldn't have to bear the brunt of Canada's emissions reductions, Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams told a Calgary audience Thursday.
It's unfair to "play one region of the country off against the other" and penalize Alberta's oilsands for greenhouse gas emissions with "detrimental" climate change policies ahead of the Copenhagen conference on climate change later this month, Williams said at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to reporters following his speech, Williams said Newfoundland is prepared to help offset Alberta's emissions in exchange for supporting major new hydro-power development at Churchill Falls, where his province is embroiled in a bitter dispute with Quebec over electricity production.
"It's important we find a proper balance," Williams said.
"I don't think it's fair to Alberta, which has carried the freight in this country for a long period of time, to now be in a position, you know, where they're going two be disadvantaged," he said.
"The cost of addressing climate change should not come at the expense of Alberta and Saskatchewan."
Describing oilsands as the economic engine of Canada, Williams said development of the world's second-largest oil reserves in northeast Alberta has provided the federal government with much-needed equalization funds and employment that have benefited provinces such as Newfoundland.
Williams also credited the offshore oil and gas industry with transforming Newfoundland into a "have" province within Confederation for the first time in its history.
However, he singled out Quebec, which enjoys huge emissions-free hydro power reserves, for pursuing "harmful" climate-change policies at the expense of provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and, indirectly, Newfoundland.
"I find there's an affinity with Albertans, we have common issues," he said.
Williams is currently battling Hydro-Quebec over access to the province's electrical grid, which he said is designed to monopolize power transmission in Atlantic Canada.
Earlier this fall, Hydro-Quebec paid $4.8 billion to buy New Brunswick's Crown power corporation, a move Williams said is designed to shut Newfoundland out of a competitive power market and maintain an inequitable status quo that sees Hydro-Quebec purchase power from Labrador's assets under a 64-year-old purchase agreement for a "pittance" and resell it to the United States for huge profits.
Williams claimed Quebec reaped $1.7 billion under the agreement, which doesn't expire until 2041, compared with $63 million for Newfoundland.
But Clare Demerse, the Pembina Institute's associate director of climate change based in Ottawa, said other provinces such as Alberta should follow Quebec's lead in setting tough emissions reduction targets.
Although she agreed Quebec "has less fat to trim" owing to its abundant hydro resources, she said provinces such as Alberta can do more to reduce emissions within a national framework. Oilsands will contribute almost all, or 95 per cent, of Canada's emissions growth by 2020, she said.
"I would totally disagree with (Williams') views on Quebec," Demerse said.
Whereas Quebec operates a very "efficient" power system, Alberta has room to cut emissions in sectors such as power and transportation in addition to oilsands. Demerse will head to Copenhagen later this week to monitor the climate change talks.
"I think it has to be fair for all regions," she said in an interview. "But at this point in time, Alberta is not doing its fair share."