Jim Flaherty brings good vibrations to Alberta
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty might be a Toronto guy, but as a skilled politician, he knows how to tailor his message to the crowd he’s talking to.
So as he visited Alberta’s capital Thursday to speak at an Edmonton Chamber of Commerce luncheon, he made the attendees feel good at the expense of Canada’s center of the universe, noting that the lowly Edmonton Oilers – who haven’t made the NHL playoffs in six seasons – were the winners in the league’s annual draft lottery, a lottery that also featured the equally downtrodden Toronto Maple Leafs (last playoff appearance for the Bad Blue: 2003-2004). “We can’t win anything with the Leafs these days,” Flaherty quipped.
Flaherty need not bother these days trying to make Albertans feel good. With a booming, oil and gas-fueled economy that is the envy of every jurisdiction in Canada, including Ontario, and a prime minister who hails from Calgary, the province’s political and economic influence has never been greater.
And as the finance minister made clear in his remarks at the luncheon, the ruling Progressive Conservatives have no interest in seeing that influence, on the economic side at least, wane.
Anyone looking for some real news from Flaherty’s remarks was disappointed. He didn’t say anything new. But two points Flaherty stressed in his talk, which will warm the hearts of oily and gassy CEOs in Calgary, was the government’s intention to change the country’s immigration programs to ensure newcomers to Canada “are those that fit into the job needs of Canada.”
He also made sure to trumpet the government’s plan to speed up the review of major resource projects, like Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline, so Canada can get its oil and gas to new markets and the country doesn’t scare away investment.
Major projects are important. The new, one project, one review, with time limits [regulatory system], applies to the projects being reviewed at this time as well as projects proposed in the future. This is a very important change. We support environmental protection. We support the environmental assessment process. But it has to be reasonable and it has to be within a fixed period of time so that jobs and economic growth can be created.
If the Conservatives can accomplish those two goals, the oil patch will be pleased. Now if only Flaherty and the Conservative government could do something about natural gas prices.