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Federal energy minister downplays call for national energy strategy

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CHARLOTTETOWN - Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver downplayed talk of drafting a formal national energy strategy Tuesday following a meeting with provincial energy and mining ministers.

Oliver told a news conference in Charlottetown that he hadn't heard anything in proposals for a strategy that isn't being dealt with already.

He said that included recent suggestions advanced by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, whose province has been the driving force behind a national plan.

"I've asked her about what she had in mind and I didn't hear anything that suggested something that we weren't actually covering," said Oliver.

Still, he said the federal and provincial governments are moving together to develop the country's natural resources in a responsible manner.

Oliver said that included co-operation across a range of issues, including market diversification, labour requirements, regulatory reform and environmental protection.

He said all of those areas were discussed during the two-day meeting in Charlottetown.

"If you want to put a bow on it and call it a national energy strategy, go ahead. But we're not applying that labelling to it," Oliver said.

The call for a formal strategy has come from business groups, environmentalists and aboriginal groups, as well as most of Canada's premiers.

In a news release, Blue Green Canada, a group that includes environmentalists and unions, said it appears Ottawa isn't interested in the strategy.

"Luckily, moving forward on a Canadian energy strategy doesn't depend on them — provinces can take the lead and craft a plan to create good new jobs, cut emissions and spur clean, renewable energy,” said Mark Rowlinson of the United Steelworkers union.

Oliver said the meetings in Charlottetown included discussions on improving infrastructure, such as the possibility of building pipelines to carry oil and natural gas from Western Canada to markets in Atlantic Canada.

He said the ministers also talked about improving electricity reliability through data sharing and advancing energy efficiency initiatives.

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