OTTAWA — Former Alberta premier Alison Redford has sounded a ringing endorsement for change in the current federal election — although she's quick to say that's not necessarily a call for the defeat of Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
Redford has been largely absent from the public scene since she was drummed out of Alberta's Progressive Conservative dynasty in 2013 following a series of government spending scandals.
Her successor, former Harper cabinet minister Jim Prentice, went down in flames in last spring's provincial election, which elected Rachel Notley's NDP after four decades of unbroken Progressive Conservative rule.
Public opinion polls also point to a strong desire for change in the current federal election that culminates Oct. 19. Roughly two thirds of respondents in most polls say they're looking for an alternative to a fourth straight Conservative government.
"I think change is exciting for people and I think change is important," Redford told reporters Wednesday following a speech at an energy and environment symposium organized by the Conference Board of Canada.
"It seems to me that there's a real momentum around people thinking that change is a positive outcome and that it brings new ideas. That's really what democracy's about."
Asked if that means she wants to see Harper defeated, Redford responded that she's "not partisan at all any more."
"You don't have to change political parties to change, but you have to be open to new ideas," she added, "and we've certainly seen some of that from the federal government in the last couple of years."
"We've seen a lot of change in the other party leaders as well. So it will be up to Canadians to decide what makes sense for them and what change they want."
Redford's embrace of political change came following her keynote speech at the two-day Conference Board of Canada event, where panellists repeatedly stressed the need for new approaches to climate, energy needs and the economy.
Redford's speech noted what she called an "amazing change in the discussion" over energy policy in the 18 months since she left politics, although she suggested a more collaborative federal-provincial effort is needed.
She was one of several speakers Wednesday who stressed the vital importance of an immediate, post-election push by all levels of government to prepare Canada for the next round of international climate negotiations in Paris this December.
Another common theme was the requirement for a price on carbon to allow market mechanisms to fight climate change, a policy direction that former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt described as "indisputable."
Panellist David Runnalls, a University of Ottawa professor who served as president of the International Institute for Sustainable Development for 11 years, called it "an accepted truism" that progress won't be made on climate without properly pricing carbon.
Runnalls stressed that climate is not just, or even primarily, an environmental issue, but "is at the core of the global economic system."
He cited a World Economic Forum meeting three years ago when the heads of the International Monetary Fund, OECD and World Bank all independently called climate change the largest single economic challenge facing the world in the 21st century.
The IMF, he said, has started calculating the externality costs of carbon emissions. Canada's IMF figure is $34 billion a year — "an implied subsidy of $34 billion a year to the fossil fuel industry."
The global figure is $1.3 trillion annually.
"This is not Greenpeace," crunching the numbers, said Runnalls. "This is the International Monetary Fund."
Also on HuffPost