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Alberta well positioned for future, says former UCP environment and energy minister

Sonya Savage, as Minister of Energy under former Alberta Premier Jason Kenny, was tasked with pitching a highly unpopular attempt to open up the Rocky Mountains to coal mining, which was not even her brainchild.

After taking over as environment minister under Kenny’s successor, Daniel Smith, she saw her reluctance to cut taxes on oil companies’ cleanup of wells undermined by the enthusiasm of her new boss. .

Savage didn’t even want Smith to be the party leader, instead campaigning for former Treasury Minister Travis Toos. She did not run in the recent elections.

But don’t expect criticism or sour grapes from her.

“Policies have changed,” she shrugs as she calls from British Columbia, where she spends much of the summer.

In an interview with the Canadian Press Agency, Mr Savage said four years of unified Conservative rule had left the state well prepared for a future green economy. And she gave a lot of credit to Kenny, who was kicked out of the party he helped found.

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“I was sorry to see him go,” she said. “No one worked harder than Jason Kenney to make Alberta a competitive and investment-friendly place,” she said.

Things didn’t start so well for her. Shortly after his appointment as energy minister, Savage was the face of the government’s ill-fated decision to reverse a 1976 policy to protect the Rocky Mountains from coal mining. Opposition to the move quickly spread, and she was outraged.

“[The idea]came from a variety of sources,” she says alone, but other media outlets reported that UCP candidates such as Jason Nixon had been linked to miners and their people even before the government was elected. They reportedly discussed the possibility.

“It certainly wasn’t my idea.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has roiled the state’s economy, and a crash in oil prices threatened to collapse the state’s economy. Savage praises Kenny for overcoming quarantine and mask mandates.

“The prime minister told each of us, ‘What will the post-pandemic recovery look like?'”

That made her look to “where the world is going and we need to catch up on some things that haven’t been done in the last decade.”

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Savage said her policy on critical minerals, regulations permitting the development of geothermal power and hydrogen, and further work on carbon capture and storage all stemmed from Kenny’s questions.

“No other prime minister in the history of our country has done as much as he did,” Savage said.

Savage said he carried on Kenny’s forward-looking stance to the environment ministry, which released the state’s first climate change strategy in April. The policy is now enshrined in the mandate of current Environment Minister Rebecca Schultz.

“I’m really, really happy to see the Prime Minister use that policy and still say net zero and use that plan to keep Ottawa in its own lane,” Savage said. Told.

But the policy, which proposes a series of studies, commissions and reports without timelines or interim targets, has been criticized for planning at a time when the rest of the world is starting to act. Savage makes no apologies.

“It’s important to put in a lot of effort to find a viable path to[net-zero],” she said. “Behind the scenes, they’re working on sector-by-sector technology pathways, calculating costs and how far and how far without hurting the economy or creating goals that don’t have the technology to get there. We are finding out how fast we can get there.”

Savage said Alberta is increasingly well positioned for a changing world.

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“Now,” she said. “Four years ago, we were just waking up to it.

“I think Alberta is well positioned.”

Mr. Savage holds a master’s degree in environmental law and worked for the Canadian Energy and Pipeline Association before entering politics.

She said her decision to leave was largely driven by family concerns, as well as a desire to get a job in the private sector as soon as the mandatory cooling-off period was over.

“Politics is short-term,” she said. “It’s not a long-term outlook.”

© 2023 Canadian Press

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