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Alberta premier to discuss oilsands, climate change with Al Gore in Switzerland

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EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford is going to get a chance to discuss climate change with high-profile oilsands critic and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

Redford confirmed Monday that she has been accepted as a special guest to a panel discussion that includes Gore on regulatory issues and climate change at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday.

Redford told reporters she will use the opportunity to disabuse Gore of "myths" she says critics use to unfairly tarnish Alberta's bedrock industry.

"I will do what I always do, which is to talk about Alberta's record (on reducing climate change emissions) and to give him the facts," Redford said in a conference call with reporters from Zurich.

"And to suggest (to him) that as he draws conclusions which are erroneous with respect to the oilsands that he take into account the reality of the production and not the myths of the production."

Her office said that it's unlikely Redford would have a formal speaking role at the panel discussion.

Gore, a celebrated speaker, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been an outspoken critic of the oilsands and its effects on the air, water and landscape around the hub region of Fort McMurray.

Last year, he called the oilsands Canada's “resource curse” and decried the sprawling bitumen mining operations that have damaged landscapes and polluted the air "as if it’s an open sewer.”

Redford is no stranger to fighting the public relations battle over the oilsands.

She has already made frequent trips to Washington to lobby for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. The pipeline has met fierce criticism from opponents who say it would reinforce North American dependence on oilsands bitumen.

Redford is in Zurich following a lengthy trade mission in India.

She was to have toured Afghanistan this past weekend. She said she had been invited to tour the region by Canadian ambassador Deborah Lyons, but the bombing and gunfire attack Friday on a Kabul restaurant frequented by foreigners changed things.

There were security concerns and sensitivity issues about arriving after such a tragedy, she said. Twenty-one people, including including Canadians Martin Glazer and Peter McSheffrey, died in the Taliban attack on the Taverna du Liban.

Redford had planned to meet with Canadian troops, including the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and tour a children's health institute that has ties to Edmonton's University of Alberta Hospital.

The tour had not been publicized on Redford's itinerary for security reasons.

"(It) was a personal disappointment to me," said Redford. "I wanted to see PPCLI who, of course, were the first troops in and will be the last out.

"There's a number of Albertans, in Edmonton in particular, terribly impacted by some (troop) losses."

Redford also has personal history with Afghanistan. Trained as a lawyer, she helped organize parliamentary elections there in 2005 before entering provincial politics.

"I was going to have the opportunity to meet with very, very, strong, capable, brave women who are doing their very best to advance the cause of human rights and women's rights in Afghanistan."

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