Newly appointed Energy Minister, Ken Hughes, has been tasked with taking on one of Alberta’s most crucial portfolios which requires a juggling act involving the demands of government, the demands of the public and those of industry, all while Alberta’s oil industry is under the microscope.
Mr. Hughes is the former chair of the province’s health board, a one-term Progressive Conservative MP and a Harvard-educated insurance entrepreneur. His appointment serves as a signal of Premier Redford’s intention boost the public profile and improve the public image of Alberta’s energy sector.
Boosting the public profile of Alberta’s energy sector starts with addressing environmental issues according to Mr. Hughes. He told the Globe and Mail that Alberta must prove to people beyond its borders that “we are conducting ourselves appropriately so that we have a social license to continue to develop our resources.”
Mr. Hughes stated that “there are strategic challenges we face around our ability to develop the natural resources we have, do it in an environmentally appropriate way and tell the rest of the world how we’re doing that in an environmentally appropriate way.” He also said that “...this is a great gift we have received. It’s not of our own creation, but to make the most of it is our obligation. The fact we are so fortunate imposes upon us a higher level of obligation of performing well.”
Mr. Hughes, along with Environment Minister Diana McQueen and Premier Redford, will lead the charge in shifting Alberta’s role in Canada. “Ms. Redford has championed a Canadian energy strategy that would knit together the renewable and non-renewable energy sectors of several provinces, and presumably, help push a pipeline through to the West Coast” said Josh Wingrove of The Globe and Mail.
The new energy strategy involves ensuring that “going forward, we are developing our resources in as environmentally appropriate way as we possibly can” Mr. Hughes told the Globe and Mail.
Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has said that Mr. Hughes’ business experience and ties in both the provincial and federal government should serve him well in his new appointment. This is good news as the energy sector is “obviously an important portfolio for us in Alberta,” Davies said.
It’s a positive sign to see that our provinces leaders are really tuning in to the importance of developing Alberta’s resources with the environment and environmental issues at the forefront of discourse and strategy.