CALGARY - A report by the Calgary-based Energy Policy Institute of Canada recommends work begin immediately on a national energy strategy, with or without the initial support of British Columbia.
"We are continuing our work, the other premiers are considering their work and we're saying to British Columbia when you're ready to join our deliberations we welcome you," said Doug Black, president of the institute, at a Calgary news conference Thursday.
"Certainly British Columbia is very, very important. I acknowledge this is a political problem but our work cannot stop."
B.C. Premier Christy Clark refused last week to join her provincial counterparts in crafting a national energy strategy, insisting that a public feud over the Northern Gateway pipeline has to be resolved before she can proceed.
She said she wouldn't endorse a deal before discussions take place with Ottawa and Alberta over how B.C. would be compensated for allowing the $6-billion pipeline to carry heavy oil to the B.C. coast to be loaded onto tankers bound for Asia.
Black, however, stressed the importance of striking an energy deal.
"I believe in the fullness of time when we look back on this discussion, we will consider this a small setback," Black said.
The framework report from the Energy Policy Institute of Canada is being sent to all provincial and territorial leaders as well as the federal government. It recommends a committee of provincial and federal ministers, as well as First Nations leaders and NGOs, begin work immediately.
The report said the Harper government has already addressed concerns about regulatory reform when it announced a major overhaul of environmental assessment rules for big projects. Ottawa will defer to provincial reviews that meet national standards, and reviews would be limited to 12 months for standard assessments, rising to a maximum of two years.
"The time for discussion is over. We need to continue alignments, we need to continue working with groups, we need to continue developing thinking but it is now time for action," said Black.
"Energy will continue to be the primary economic driver for Canada. Without it, Canada will be hard pressed to prosper."
Another major plank in the framework is market diversification. Board member Gerry Protti said Canada needs to diversify beyond the oil and gas sector into areas like electricity and cannot remain entirely reliant on the United States as its only customer.
Protti said more economic opportunity exists in new markets overseas.
"[The institute] recommends taking any and all steps needed to access these new overseas markets including the promotion of our resources around the world and upgrading and expanding infrastructure and transportation networks to get our energy exports where they can benefit is the most."
The 150 page report also calls for a review of alternatives for carbon management.
At the Council of the Federation in Halifax last month, Clark stepped out of meetings as premiers tried to cobble together a pan-Canadian strategy on energy and before they broke for their final news conference.
"British Columbia will not be participating in any of those discussions until after we've seen some progress that our requirements for the shipment of heavy oil will be met,'' she told a hastily called news conference.
"It's not a national energy strategy if British Columbia hasn't signed on.''