Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. PA

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau caused an uproar in Alberta three decades ago when he tried to regulate the country’s powerful oil and gas industry. Now, his son is betting that a new plan to manage Canada's energy growth will be better received than his father's plan, and he thinks it could help bury the hatchet with critics of his father’s contentious legacy in the oil-rich province.

“We’re a very different country than we were 30 years ago,” Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader, told Bloomberg News last week in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the center of Canada’s oil sands industry.

Albertans are still smarting over the elder Trudeau’s National Energy Program of 1980, which raised taxes on crude producers in Canada's western provinces to offset the impact of higher energy prices in the eastern, non-energy producing part of the country. But Justin Trudeau is convinced his more moderate energy stance can help Liberals regain credibility in Alberta, where the party hasn’t held a seat since 2006, Bloomberg reported.

Trudeau said he supports a national energy strategy put forward by the provinces that would require pipeline companies to secure support from local communities -- a kind of “social license,” as he calls it -- to get financing and government approvals for their projects. He's also pushing to establish a price on carbon emissions from Canada’s oil and gas operations, the rampant growth of which will likely cause the country to miss its carbon reduction goals for 2020.

The politician is striking a relatively conciliatory tone on energy pipelines, too. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative party has made building new oil export infrastructure, in particular the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a national priority, while the New Democratic Party, the largest opposition bloc, opposes most new pipeline projects. Trudeau is somewhere in the middle, backing the Keystone XL but opposing Enbridge Inc.’s $6.1 billion Northern Gateway project to pipe oil sands crude to the Pacific Coast.

His energy stance will be tested Monday in special elections to fill vacancies in four districts, including two Alberta constituencies, Bloomberg reported. Liberals have had limited influence in the country’s western provinces and territories after the party was reduced to 34 seats in the nation’s 308-seat legislature in the 2011 election, the worst showing in Liberals’ history.