‘A start:’ Alberta critical of Ottawa’s $1.6B package for ailing energy sector

A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Ottawa’s new $1.6-billion aid package for the oilpatch will help, but is essentially tone deaf and won’t fix the pipeline bottleneck crippling the province.

“We don’t need help finding more markets. We need help moving our product, and I don’t know that we could have been much more clear about that,” Notley said Tuesday in Calgary. “Offering Alberta business owners and industry the opportunity to go further in debt is not any kind of long-term solution.

“Especially not when we are a province and we are talking about an industry that is very good at being profitable if given the freedom to do so.”

Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the package in Edmonton Tuesday. The money, largely in the form of corporate loans, is aimed at helping companies stay afloat, buy new equipment and diversify.

“We understand that when Alberta hurts, so does Canada,” said Sohi. “Together we can build a stronger Alberta (and) a more prosperous Canada.”

Sohi said $1 billion is to be set aside through Export Development Canada for oil and gas companies to make capital investments and purchase new technology.

Another $500 million is to be made available through the Business Development Bank of Canada over the next two years to help smaller oil and gas companies navigate the downturn.

A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects.

No one from Notley’s government was at Sohi’s news conference. Notley called the announcement a start.

“We’ve heard from some small producers that this will help them get access to capital in trying times and perhaps tide them over, but it is not entirely what they were looking for, too,” she said.

Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry appreciates federal recognition of the oilpatch problems, but said it didn’t ask for money under federal government programs.

“We’re a job-creating industry and an investment attractive industry if we can get our fundamental building blocks right and that’s what we’ll continue to push for,” said McMillan.

Political opponents dismissed the money as a politically motivated and ultimately ineffective gesture.

“Today’s handout is nothing more than a desperate, election-year attempt to trick western Canadians into thinking (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) cares,” said federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

READ MORE: Alberta buying its own rail cars to move oil without feds, Notley says

“He is trying to save a handful of Liberal seats, nothing more.”

Alberta United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney agreed.

“This announcement is too little, too late for those families suffering as the result of the Trudeau government’s anti-oil-and-gas agenda,” he said.

Randy Ollenberger, a financial analyst who covers major oil and gas firms for BMO Capital Markets, said the programs will likely be used only by very small companies and are unlikely to have a meaningful effect on job creation.

“If you can’t physically export (oil or gas), what difference does it make?” said Ollenberger. “This is a globally traded product and we just have to be able to move it to that market.”

Alberta has been roiling of late as the double whammy of pipeline bottlenecks and low prices threaten to further eviscerate its fountainhead industry, which has already endured a prolonged slump.

In recent days, there have been demonstrations and protests around the province, demanding Canada step up to help Alberta’s oil industry given its broader beneficial impact on the national economy.

Demonstrators have also slammed Trudeau’s government for failing to take meaningful action on pipelines, although Ottawa recently purchased the $4.5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — which would triple its capacity to the B.C. coast — to ensure it gets built.

Those demonstrations have included so-called yellow vest protesters. Some of those demonstrators came to Sohi’s news conference, standing in the back, videotaping the speech, and muttering their displeasure.

“While we understand the (public) frustration … these investments that we are making today will ensure that businesses continue to thrive,” said Sohi.

“The lack of ability to build pipelines in Canada is something we’re trying to fix.”

In recent weeks, Notley has ordered Alberta oil companies to cut production to prop up prices, and has called for Trudeau to help the province buy more rail cars to get oil to market in the short term.

Sohi’s package does not include money for that, and Ollenberger wondered why.

“They would have been better off to say, ‘We’ve got a billion and a half dollars, we’re going to put it to railcars,’” he said.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID 19: Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, other First Nations mobilize resources

Some Indigenous communities are enacting emergency measures to cope during pandemic

North Island College brings marine training to Port Alberni

Marine Training instructor Captain Harry Johnston joins NIC team

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

Evening world update: U.S. restrictions extended 30 days; NY deaths near 1,000

Comprehensive world update, with the latest developments in the COVID-19 crisis

‘It’s up to us: Recently-returned B.C. couple urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

Most Read