Alberta minister says post 9-11 oil fears are fuelling hyper-inflated economy
EDMONTON (CP) - Shock waves from the 9-11 terror bombings are helping drive a hyper-inflated Alberta oil and gas economy, in turn creating critical land-use pressures, Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton said Monday.
"Since 9-11 there's a new factor in the oil and gas markets and that's the security of supply issue," said Morton.
"And that has thrust Alberta right to the top of the attention of not just the oil and gas sector but also the Western world, and that's what's contributed to the growth you've seen over the last five or six years."
Morton announced his department will tour the province over the last two weeks of May to hear ideas from Albertans on a land-use framework to be completed by the end of the year.
The framework will address how to make best use of the land given the competing interests of agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, tourism and municipal development.
The roaring oil and gas economy, centred on oilsands development in Fort McMurray, has led to record growth and concerns over growth pressures:
-About 100,000 newcomers have arrived in the past year, leading to housing shortages, steep price hikes and land use and resources squabbles that pit region against region.
-The Pembina Institute think-tank is urging stronger rules to protect groundwater from contamination by proliferating oil and gas wells.
-A coalition of landowners and environmental groups are fighting development on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, saying industrialization and oil and gas drilling threatens the area's delicate eco-system.
-A $1-billion shopping, gambling and horse-racing development on Calgary's northern outskirts is struggling to secure a water supply from a nearby watershed that is already overtaxed.
"There are a lot of contentious issues," said Morton.
"I told stakeholders in advance, 'None of you will be 100 per cent happy with this because it does involve trade-offs and some compromises and some give and take.' "
Morton said he won't prejudge the report despite his government's stated promise to let market forces determine the growth of the oilsands economy.
"We will put forward recommendations as to what we think Albertans want and what we think represents the best balance of environmental, economic and social objectives.
"The draft will go to caucus and I'm sure there will be a frank exchange of views."
Bill Bonko, the Opposition Liberal critic for the sustainable resource development portfolio, said the effectiveness of public input is questionable, given the government's position.
"The premier has already said there won't be any brakes on oil and gas development," said Bonko.
He said the government needs firm timelines and outcomes for the land-use framework because the province is at a critical crossroads.
"It affects so many areas of our lives. Everyone is relying on this policy. They've got to get it right."