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Danielle Smith addresses 'just transition' concerns with prime minister in Ottawa

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith expressed her concerns with the federal government's proposed  'just transition' legislation directly to the prime minister on Tuesday, saying she hopes the two can find some common ground.

Smith previously voiced her apprehensions with the yet-to-be-tabled legislation in a public letter to Justin Trudeau, in which she said the world needs "more energy, not less."

The office of the premier says Smith met with Trudeau for approximately 30 minutes on Tuesday, primarily to discuss Alberta's request that the federal government halt its introduction of the legislation and other emission reduction strategies.

"I did write a letter to the prime minister a couple of weeks ago, expressing concern about some of the major initiatives that have been announced without much consultation with Alberta that stand to have a huge impact on our province," said Smith while speaking to media alongside Trudeau.

"The 'just transition' legislation gives the impression that the energy sector is going to be phased out. It's not going to be phased out."

Smith said she does think the two have some "shared priorities."

"LNG export to reduce emissions using the green transfer mechanism to get credit here, that will also help British Columbia. Working on critical minerals, hydrogens, geothermal … I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to find some common ground,” she said.

"I think it's going to be important for all of us, for Alberta, for all of Canada, that we need to find common ground, so that we can continue to address these issues together," the premier added.

Her in-person pitch to the prime minister comes as new data shows 2022 was a record year for oil production in Alberta.

According to ATB, crude production in the province was nearly 1.4 billion barrels last year, the most ever in Alberta's history.

"We're really seeing the payoff from all the investments in the oil sands all those years ago. Those big projects are now producing a lot of oil," said Rob Roach, ATB chief economist.

"Overall, it's an economic benefit for the province."

An average of 3.7 million barrels of crude were produced daily in Alberta in 2022, an increase of 12 per cent compared to 2021. The amount of oil produced in the province last year was almost double what the figures were in 2010.

"We expect some growth over the next few years, but it will hit that transportation wall at some point. It will still be a positive thing for the economy as we maintain that production," said Roach.

"Longer term, there's questions around how climate change and climate change policy might start to cut into that. But in the short term, production growth is the likely scenario," he added.

The premier's office says Smith asked the feds to collaborate with Alberta on developing a plan and partnership to "attract energy investment and workers into Alberta’s conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors" while reducing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions.

"The prime minister expressed a willingness to explore this strategy with the premier through their respective ministers and the premier will be following up with further correspondence regarding proposed next steps in the near future," said a Tuesday news release.

Smith was in Ottawa for the first in-person meeting of all first ministers since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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