Premier Danielle Smith says Ottawa’s hostility to Alberta’s oil and gas industry emerged from the “extreme left” policies of environmental social governance (ESG).

Her remarks emerged after candidates in the Brooks-Medicine Hat byelection were asked how they would improve Alberta’s ESG rating during a debate on Wednesday night. ESG is increasingly used as a standard socially-conscious investors consider before partnering with a company or region.

Smith pointed to Saskatchewan, which just introduced the Saskatchewan First Act to assert provincial autonomy, and said provinces are catching on to the idea of standing up to Ottawa.

“Ottawa’s hostile policies towards us has been led by the most extreme left on environmental, social and governance ratings that focus so narrowly just on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and the demonization campaign that has happened against our energy industry, which sadly, the federal government with Steven Guilbeault is aligned with,” she said from the southern Alberta riding.

“And, sadly, the NDP is aligned with the Liberals at the federal level.”

Smith pointed to the federal government’s proposed cap and trade program for Alberta’s oil and gas sector which would mandate the industry reduce its emissions by 42% by 2023. The policy would “devastate” the sector, she said.

“This is the reason we have to stand up to Ottawa. They have no right to regulate our industry.”

Smith said the “Alberta way” of reducing emissions is to export clean LNG to countries still using polluting fuels like wood, coal and dung for home heating and cooking.

“If we do that and get credit for it with the green transfer mechanism, we can reduce global emissions,” she said.

The premier also advocated for Alberta’s hydrogen economy to lower emissions. Alberta is a world leader on carbon tech to capture carbon dioxide and embed it in products or put it underground, she said.

“You will never see Ottawa or Steven Guilbeault defending Alberta in the way that we are going to defend Alberta,” she said. “That’s how we’ll stand up for our ESG rating.”

NDP candidate Gwendoline Dirk was the first to respond to the ESG question. After a long pause, she said, “I have to confess, I’m not too sure how to answer that question.”

“Let me just think for a moment.”

The moderator explained the question further, and Dirk eventually responded, calling Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act “anti Alberta,” saying it will scare away investment. She also said the United Conservative Party destroyed tax credits the NDP introduced to grow the economy and tech industry.

“Obviously we need to attract investment to Alberta. Very, very important and get big projects done,” she said.

Dirk said an NDP government would bolster investment in Alberta through a tech investment fund, a venture fund, an investment tax credit, a digital media tax credit and a capital investment tax credit.

Votes will head to the polls on November 8.


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