EDMONTON – With just over six weeks to go before Alberta is to host global leaders at a World Economic Forum event, there is confusion over whether it will go ahead.
Cal Dallas, minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, said Monday that the gathering in Lake Louise could still go ahead as planned on April 24-25.
Or, he said, it might not.
“We’re not ruling out any possibilities,” Dallas said in response to reports the hotel in Lake Louise has already released the rooms and that the World Economic Forum is not advertising the event on its website.
There was no reply to an email sent to the organization requesting comment
The conference was billed as bringing together 100 leaders to talk about energy and environmental sustainability and to come up with suggestions to better inform future World Economic Forum discussions.
The original dates were announced on Jan. 21 by Premier Alison Redford during her visit to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Dallas said the dates are subject to change to make sure all the delegates who want to attend can be accommodated.
He said the timing is secondary to the event itself.
“This is really about the conversation that we want to facilitate in Alberta. It’s not about the date or the public sphere of this,” he said.
“The very high-level discussion requires that we work to dates that are appropriate for individuals that will participate in this.”
The Opposition Wildrose said the real story came to them from a high-level inside source.
“They informed us the reason why the conference was cancelled was because the premier’s office jumped the gun on announcing the details (in January) before they had been pinned down,” said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.
“There’s a protocol you have to follow when you’re dealing with these kinds of events. The proper protocol would have been to wait for the World Economic Forum.
“I think it was probably highly embarrassing for them (the Forum).”
Smith said her party’s source said forum officials cancelled the event in anger over the premature Alberta news release.
Dallas dismissed those suggestions and said his department continues to work with the World Economic Forum on the conference.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said Redford is embarrassing not just herself, but the whole province.
“Premier Redford again has hurt Alberta’s credibility on the international stage,” said Sherman.
“The premier has lots of staff, lots of communications people. It seems pretty perplexing that she would give us a black eye like this. It’s pretty unprofessional.”
The World Economic Forum, with headquarters in Geneva, bills itself as a non-partisan global organization bringing together top minds to improve the state of society.
While at the forum’s annual meeting in Switzerland in January, Redford said she was able to sit in on a debate on sustainable energy involving former U.S. vice-president Al Gore — a high-profile critic of oilsands pollution.
Redford later said she managed to talk to Gore, and they agreed to disagree on points about climate change and what Alberta is doing to eradicate it.