Former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach
Credits: DAVID BLOOM/QMI AGENCY
Former Premier Ed Stelmach this week called for western unity -- and blessed the day he worked to strengthen ties with neighbouring Saskatchewan, where Premier Brad Wall has come to the defence of Alberta's vast oilsands.
"The Maritimes are OK with us, but watch the East. Watch Ontario and Quebec. They've already got two leaders that are pointing fingers," Stelmach said.
Much like McGuinty in February, Mulcair's recently tarred the oilsands with references to so-called "Dutch disease" -- a strong energy sector making the dollar robust and harming manufacturing like off-shore discovery did in the Netherlands.
Stelmach warned that strategy could bring electoral clout to the NDP.
"How do you get votes? You beat up on Alberta. ‘Alberta is driving up the cost of living, killing our jobs in Ontario and Quebec,'" he said.
"It's going to happen -- we're going to see (Mulcair's) popularity increase. You're going to see people who have no jobs align with a leader like that, even though there's no solution to it."
Interviewed Thursday, Hughes said Wall's support for Alberta is appreciated.
"I have all the time in the world for Premier Brad Wall and his colleagues.
"They have a very entrepreneurial view of the world, they have turned around Saskatchewan to where all Albertans can be delighted to see Saskatchewan joining Alberta in enjoying the fruits of their labours and the wealth of their resources," he said.
As for Mulcair and McGuinty, Hughes said there's much to be done.
"I'm of the view that we have a great deal of work to do to help other Canadians understand just how important the energy industry and the oilsands are to all of Canada ... it's a misunderstanding to suggest Alberta's interest is not Canada's interest.
"What's good for Alberta is exceedingly good for Canada. We need to help people understand how that is the fact," said the newly-elected Tory MLA for Calgary-West, who is the former head of Alberta Health Services and a long-time friend of Premier Alison Redford.
Both Stelmach and Hughes said Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith's public doubts on the science of climate change are the wrong direction for the province.
Stelmach said while much was made of the now-famous "Bozo eruptions" of Wildrose Party MLA hopefuls revealing apparent racial and sexual orientation bias, it was Smith's assertion that climate change science hasn't been settled that cost the Wildrose most at the polls.
"I mean, these are serious matters. You're going to go to Europe and tell them, ‘I don't believe in climate change,' and you're going to sell them oil?
"You don't have to believe in it -- that's not the issue. Your customer is demanding. So if you're selling black suits and your customer wants white, what are you going to do? Convince them black is white? It doesn't happen," Stelmach said.
Hughes said Alberta needs to be part of the international discussion about climate change.
"Clearly this government recognizes the realities of the political context within which we work," he said.
"One of our great challenges in Alberta is to communicate to the rest of the world about the exceptional work already being done in making sure we develop our resources in an environmentally responsible way," he said.
"We need to make sure we're managing the way in which the resources are developed and achieving the environment/economic development balance that is appropriate."
On pending pipelines like the Keystone XL extension to the Texas coast and the Enbridge Northern Gateway to Kitimat and Asian markets beyond, Hughes said the access they provide for Alberta bitumen is critical.
"Otherwise, we have a stranded resource or inadequate access to the market and that costs a lot economically," he said.
Stelmach said pipelines hold the key to national prosperity, citing railways and ports at capacity -- and current pipelines operating at capacity by 2015.