The Alberta government, keen to sell its oil to Asian markets, recognizes that it will have to share with British Columbia some of the "rewards" it will glean from the construction of a pipeline to the B.C. coast.
Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton told The Globe and Mail editorial board Monday that to get the people of British Columbia to support the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, there will have to be clearer benefits to that province.
"[The issue of]equalizing risk-benefit ratios between B.C. and Alberta has to be addressed," he said, noting that the two provincial premiers have already had "constructive discussions" about the issue. Ottawa will have to be involved as well, he added.
While the issue is at an early stage of discussions, bureaucrats have began talks, Mr. Morton said, and he recently had a meeting with federal members of parliament from British Columbia.
However, Mr. Morton would not offer specifics of how the benefit-sharing would work, and declined to say if Alberta would consider splitting royalties from oil shipped through the pipeline.
When it comes to the risks of the pipeline, he said he is particularly concerned about protecting the salmon fishery in B.C.
"Industry is going to have to step up" and go beyond merely investing in measures to make sure tanker transport is safe, he said. They must also take "pro-active" measures to contribute to broader fish conservation programs in B.C., for example, he said.
At the same time, British Columbians should recognize that increased oil exports will prompt more trade in many other commodities, he said.
Mr. Morton acknowledged that a key part of Alberta's efforts to "sell" the value of the oil sands in general, is to underline the economic benefits for all of Canada, including Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
"This is going to be a big source of government revenues and job creation right across the country," he said. A significant portion of the supply chain for oil sands goods and services extends into Ontario, where the manufacturing sector can use the help, he noted. "[We hope]Ontario will see this as a national asset, and not just a regional or Alberta asset. ... The oil sands have an opportunity to be a real pillar of stability and job growth for all of Canada in the coming decades."
To make that happen, Alberta oil must be sold on global markets, at global prices, he said.
More broadly, Mr. Morton said Canada needs to more formally co-ordinate its national energy policies, an approach Alberta Premier Alison Redford has referred to as a "Canadian energy strategy."
That strategy would deal with issues far beyond the oil sands and pipelines, but also include policy on cross-border electricity issues, uranium exploration, climate change and environmental issues, Mr. Morton said.