12/13/2011 07:50 EST | Updated 02/12/2012 05:12 EST

Canada Energy: Western Premiers To Pitch Feds On New National Plan

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EDMONTON - Canada's three western-most premiers are heading to Ottawa to pitch new ways to harness the country's energy resources.

No date has been set, but Alberta Premier Alison Redford said Tuesday she, Christy Clark of British Columbia, and Saskatchewan's Brad Wall will meet with their federal counterparts before she calls a provincial election in the spring.

The three provinces comprise 90 per cent of Canada's oil and gas sector.

Redford told a joint news conference that the goal is to get Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to work with the provinces on a national energy strategy.

"Whether we're talking about oilsands or gas or coal or hydro or whatever it might be, we're part of an integrated energy economy, and what that means is we all benefit from the success of all other parts of the country," said Redford.

The premiers made the comments after meeting at Government House in Edmonton to discuss their shared New West Partnership agreement.

The deal, signed in July 2010, allows the three provinces to work as a bloc on trade and labour issues.

Under New West, the provinces have reduced red tape for foreign workers and for workers moving from one province to another, and have undertaken joint research and development initiatives.

The deal also allows the three to lobby as one. Last year, they opened a joint trading office in Shanghai.

Wall said the ideas they'll pitch won't just be on the revenue side, but on ways to make resource development more environmentally sustainable.

"Can we be doing better? Yes we can. But what other nation in the world that is an energy power can claim what this country can in terms of its environmentally responsible approach to the development of energy?" said Wall.

The trip will happen soon.

Under a new law passed last week Redford must have the provincial vote sometime in a three-month window ending on the last day in May. That means a writ drop could come as early as Feb. 2.

The premiers said they also plan to discuss immigration and labour market development issues in Ottawa.

Clark said they did discuss Enbridge Inc.'s (TSX:ENB) proposed Northern Gateway pipeline at Tuesday's meeting, but said she is not any closer to endorsing it.

Clark reiterated she first wants to see the results of regulatory hearings on the line, set to begin in January.

"We're going to wait and see what those facts are, then we can do a full assessment of the benefit to Canada and the benefit to British Columbia of the project — and then I think we can have a good debate in our province on whether or not we're going to get behind it," said Clark.

If completed, Northern Gateway would take crude from the west to Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to lucrative Asian markets.

Redford has said Asia is critical, especially given that the U.S. government has deferred until 2013 a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would take Alberta crude through the American heartland to upgraders in Texas.

Keystone came under heavy criticism for the initial plan to run it through an ecologically sensitive aquifer in Nebraska.

Aboriginal groups and environmentalists have similar concerns about the Northern Gateway line, given the plan is to run it through boreal forests.

Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta's opposition Wildrose party, said it's encouraging to see the premiers working together.

But she said Redford has to do more to lobby the Americans to approve the Keystone line, and more to convince Clark that the Northern Gateway lines is the way to go.

"It is the premier's job to convince Premier Clark that (Northern Gateway) is a pipeline project that is worthwhile not only for Alberta and Saskatchewan, but also for British Columbia's interest," she said.

"We do need British Columbia to be part of that partnership if we're going to be able to access those markets in Asia."