Borrowing a page from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s political handbook, B.C. Premier Christy Clark is coming to Calgary next week to make friends and raise money for her political future.

Business community sources say Ms. Clark is hosting a $500-a-ticket event at the Calgary Petroleum Club targeting deep-pocketed oil patch players. She is also planning to meet with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta’s new premier, Alison Redford.

The visits are a measure of how much the political centre of gravity in Western Canada is following the money to Calgary.

“[They] illustrate the impact of decisions made by the business community headquartered here have on provincial economies in Western Canada,” said Gary Leach, executive director of the Small Explorers & Producers Association of Canada, who plans to attend Thursday’s fundraiser.

“And so if those political leaders want to come where the action is, Calgary is the place to be.”
Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president, policy, of the Business Council of British Columbia, said the trek to Calgary has become common for B.C. politicians and policy makers.

“Energy has become a very important industry in British Columbia,” he said. “It’s not only important today, it’s expected to play a bigger role in the provincial economy over the medium term. It just so happens that the companies that are driving the industry are all based in Alberta.”

Almost all producers, pipeline companies and financial players specializing in energy are now concentrated in Calgary.

Still, much like Mr. Wall’s first visits to Calgary in 2007 when he was a rookie politician leading the opposition Saskatchewan Party, Ms. Clark’s outreach across the Alberta/B.C. provincial boundary is raising some eyebrows.

After all, Calgarians won’t be voting in the next British Columbia provincial election, which Ms. Clark has postponed to 2013 after losing the HST referendum. Recent polls show her popularity has slipped behind the opposition NDP.

The Calgary detours worked well for Mr. Wall, who drew large crowds — including scores of former Saskatchewanians working in the oil industry — with his pro-business agenda.

When he rose to the Premier’s job, Mr. Wall became an important ally and eloquent spokesman for the oil patch. When Alberta increased its royalties, Saskatchewan kept them low, drawing investment that fuelled the Bakken oil boom.

Similarly, B.C.’s Ms. Clark, whose political advisors included former Encana Corp. CEO Gwyn Morgan, may find plenty of affection among Calgary’s oil elite.

In fact, many may regard Ms. Clark’s political longevity as an important to their own future. Most oil patch growth plans lead to B.C.: development of shale gas resources in the province’s northeast, construction of liquefied natural gas terminals on the North Coast, construction of the controversial Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, expansion of the TransMountain oil pipeline.

A B.C. government under Ms. Clark is more likely to be supportive than one headed by NDP leader Adrian Dix, who has been vague about his energy agenda and has talked about raising business taxes.

“Premier Christy Clark is meeting with industry to encourage investment in British Columbia,” Rebecca Scott, her deputy press secretary, said in an emailed statement.

Ms. Clark’s Liberal party has worked hard to create an attractive environment for natural gas development. Plans to speed up exports of natural gas to Asia figure prominently in her recently unveiled jobs strategy.

Oil patch leaders will be even keener to get her support for planned oil sands pipelines, but it’s unlikely Ms. Clark will step up until after a provincial election because of their political unpopularity.

The fundraiser is expected to include 80 to 100 people, who will look to her for fiscal stability, predictability and a steady hand on finances at a time of great uncertainty in other areas.

Source: Financial Post

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