CALGARY – The Alberta government is choosing energy experience over political acumen to represent the province’s interests in Washington and Ottawa.

Premier Alison Redford has named a former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to be the province’s envoy in Washington, D.C.

David Manning has extensive experience in the oil and gas sector and is a one-time deputy energy minister. He at one time was an executive and chief environment officer for KeySpan/National Grid, one of the largest gas and electric utilities in the United States.

Calgary lawyer Alan Ross, who has specialized in energy infrastructure in his legal practice, is to be in charge when Alberta opens its new office in Ottawa.

Both positions have an annual salary of $275,159.

The job of envoy has traditionally been given to candidates with substantial political experience.

“There is a set of skills and relationships we can benefit from. Some of those are essentially political but that’s not all of it,” Redford said Friday after introducing the two men at a Calgary news conference.

“From my perspective it was very important that we appoint someone who has a tremendous level of technical expertise both in terms of relations, also in terms of industry,” she said.

“It was important to me that we send the signal that we take this post seriously enough that we look beyond traditional, political representation.”

Even though the Alberta Tories have some ties with the federal Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a Calgary MP, Redford said the province isn’t depending on anyone to look after its interests.

“After he was elected prime minister, Harper said, ‘People in Alberta and Western Canada are very excited that we have a western prime minister,’ Redford recalled. “And then he said: ‘But remember I am the prime minister for all of Canada.’

“It is my job as premier, our job as the provincial government, to represent and make sure that Alberta has a voice in all of those discussions.”

One of Manning’s key goals will be to promote TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline, which is still waiting for approval from the White House.

U.S. environmentalists view it as a symbol of a U.S. addiction to carbon-intensive fossil fuels and have mounted an intensive campaign urging President Barack Obama to reject the US$7-billion project. They want John Kerry, the new secretary of state, to reject the pipeline given his longtime advocacy of climate issues.

The U.S. State Department is expected to make a decision on Keystone in the coming months because it crosses an international border.

“I believe at the end of the day (that) infrastructure, the economy and energy security are critical issues for the country, so we remain optimistic, but it will be a very interesting conversation,” said Manning.

“The secretary is engaged. He certainly is aware of Canada.”

The vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers approves of both appointments.

“When it comes to the oil and gas sector in particular, both of these representatives are really knowledgeable in the energy sector,” said Greg Stringham.

“It provides us with the hands on the ground, the voice in the audience, to be able to talk about the issues in these two key centres.”

Stringham said having an Alberta representative in Ottawa will also prove valuable in pushing forward a pipeline from Alberta to points east in Canada.