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Alberta honors oil legacy

Anniversary of major oil discovery comes as Canada's prime minister talks trade in Washington.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Alberta honors oil legacy
Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd joins industry leaders and drilling veterans in marking the anniversary of a major oil discovery in the province as the country's prime minister talks trade in Washington. Photo courtesy of Alberta's provincial government.

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- With the nation's prime minister in Washington discussing trade issues, leaders in Alberta commemorated the economic legacy of oil and gas.

Imperial Oil made an oil discovery in Alberta at its Leduc #1 well in February 1947 and uncorked the oil that now makes the province the center of Canada's energy-focused economy.

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Provincial Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd marked the anniversary as a milestone in the legacy of the Alberta.

"The communities and the people who are part of the oil and gas sector have made tremendous contributions to building our province," she said in a statement.

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Alberta's economy was hobbled last year when wildfires in May sidelined about 1 million barrels per day in oil production. The net impact on the provincial economy of about $387 million, plus lower crude oil prices, meant Alberta was at one point last year anticipating an $8 billion deficit.

Canadian oil production has recovered and the Bank of Canada in January said it expected the economy to grow by 2.1 percent this year, with a return to "full capacity" expected by the middle of next year. Already, the nation's energy sector is rebounding along with crude oil prices, though the bank warned of economic pressures from beyond its borders.

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"Uncertainty about the global outlook is undiminished, particularly with respect to policies in the United States," it said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump on taking the oath of office last month pledged to dismantle or reconfigure central parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement, rattling Canada's nerves as the United States is a key trading partner. Almost all of Canada's oil exports, meanwhile, target the U.S. market.

Trump dialed his trade stance back during his first visit this week with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who sits on the far opposite end of the political spectrum from the U.S. president.

In a statement, Canada's prime minister described his meeting in Washington as "productive."

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Trump before the meeting extended support to the Canadian energy sector by signing an executive order in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, stalled by his predecessor because of environmental concerns.

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