Canada's Alberta reaches out to industry for economic advice

Wed Oct 14, 2015 5:31pm EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta Oct 14 (Reuters) - Alberta's left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) government said on Wednesday it was reaching out to prominent energy and other industry executives for advice to revamp the western Canadian province's struggling economy.

Alberta, home to Canada's oil sands and the largest source of U.S. crude imports, has been hammered by tumbling global oil prices over the past 12 months that have led energy companies to lay off thousands of local workers.

The NDP, elected in May, has faced opposition from the oil and gas industry, which has expressed concerns about ongoing reviews of the province's climate change policies and royalty rates paid by energy companies.

But Premier Rachel Notley said some industry executives would be part of a 10-person panel that would meet about four times a year, giving her advice on how to diversify Alberta's economy.

"They will advise us on identifying, promoting and developing a means of growth beyond energy, because the consequences of relying too much on just oil have become painfully clear," she told a news conference in Edmonton.

Notley said executives including Steve Williams from Suncor Energy Inc, Nancy Southern from ATCO Ltd and Elyse Allan from General Electric Co agreed to join the panel. It will also include labor leaders such as Siobhan Vipond, acting president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The main lobby group for oil and gas companies in Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, has estimated that the newly elected government, which ended 44 years of Conservative rule, was increasing industry costs by C$800 million ($618.72 million) through its early decisions to hike tax rates and carbon levies.

The provincial government is planning to introduce its budget on Oct. 27.

($1 = 1.2930 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Mike De Souza; Editing by Leslie Adler)