‘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

Summerland parks remain open for passive use

Users urged to maintain physical distancing to slow spread of COVID-19

Central Okanagan property crime map released

Crime Stoppers releases a report of property crimes across the Central Okanagan for March

Opinion: Thank you, together we can get through

Thanks for staying at home as much as possible, thinking of others as we combat this terrible virus

West Kelowna man charged in relation to cannabis grow robbery in Sicamous

Two suspects remain at large; police believe they left the robbery scene in a white hatchback

Cougar caught on camera in Lake Country

A Lake Country resident caught a cougar prowling near their home

Okanagan Indian Band asks visitors to ‘stay away’ during COVID-19

Chief and council asks non-residents not to visit OKIB reserve lands during the pandemic

Would-be visitors to Shuswap over the long weekend asked to stay home

Regional district follows provincial health officer’s lead in telling citizens to stay put this Easter

Shuswap’s Salty Dog Enduro mountain bike race postponed to 2021

Organizers follow direction from provincial/national bodies to cancel May event

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Central Okanagan School District provides nearly 7,000 meals to students

Families collect the entire week’s supply of breakfasts and lunches at once to minimize contact

Kelowna cannabis company moves to hand sanitizer production

The Valens Company plans to distribute 40,000 sanitizer bottles to frontline workers across Canada

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C. First Nations Health Authority launches virtual doctor program

Program to provide primary health care through COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read