The federal government is expected to announce $1.6 billion in funding for Alberta’s struggling energy sector on Tuesday, CTV News has learned.
Most of the money would go towards job support.
The announcement is expected one day after Calgary’s mayor joined more than 1,000 protesters at a rally outside city hall who were calling on the government for more help getting Alberta’s oil and gas products to market.
“Look around you at all of these beautiful office towers,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a speech at the rally organized by the Canada Action Coalition. “One in four of them is empty,” he added. “Our unemployment went from one of the lowest in Canada to one of the highest.”
Nenshi called oil and gas “the most powerful anti-poverty tool in the world” and said that “we here in Canada do it better than anyone.”
“Yes, climate change is real. Yes, climate change is happening,” Nenshi went on. “You should not take a non-renewable resource and sell it at a giant discount,” he said.
Alberta is currently getting about $12 less per barrel of oil it sells compared to U.S. producers -- due to a lack of pipelines that would connect the province to overseas markets where the products can fetch a higher price. The province estimates it’s losing $80 million per day as a result of its landlocked oil, which is increasingly sitting in warehouses.
In his speech to the crowd, Nenshi appealed to Quebec Premier Francois Legault to stop opposing the Energy East pipeline, which would extend an existing pipeline that currently ends in Ontario across Quebec and to refineries in New Brunswick.
“The fact is the approach of trying to marginalize Indigenous voices and ignore the environmental concerns was what Stephen Harper tried for 10 years and he couldn't get things built,” Trudeau told Solomon.
The federal government quashed a pipeline known as Northern Gateway in 2016 that was conditionally approved by the National Energy Board, citing concerns about oil tankers traversing B.C.’s northern coast.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that the price differential is a crisis, but has repeatedly blamed the previous Conservative government, comments he repeated in an interview that aired Sunday on CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon.
At the same time, the government approved an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through southern B.C., going so far as to buy the project for $4.5 billion in May when there were questions over whether it would proceed. In August, a federal court said Trans Mountain could not go ahead because of their flawed environmental review and Indigenous consultations.
Asked about Energy East, Trudeau told Solomon that, under the current approach, “there is no support for a pipeline through Quebec.”
Alberta Premier Notley was not at Monday’s rally but her government taken several new measures in recent weeks to address the crisis, including proposing a new refinery, planning the purchase of 7,000 oil rail cars and cutting production by 325,000 barrels per day starting January 1.
Ashley Peroceviat, who attended Monday’s protest, said she was there because she wants to support oil and gas workers.
“We should support the industry and not allow the industry to have oil coming in from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela,” she said.
“Two thousand jobs in Oshawa is nothing compared to our 100,000 job loss in Alberta,” Peroceviat added, referring to the recent announcement that General Motors will stop building vehicles in Oshawa, Ont.
While much of Alberta’s oil and gas extraction is located in the north of the province, many corporate headquarters are located in Calgary. The city’s unemployment rate was below five per cent for most of 2014 and 2015. In November, it stood at 7.9 per cent.
Calgary’s mayor @nenshi says City Council always been a supporter of the energy sector. “Our job is change hearts & minds one at a time.” Now he and the crowd are arguing about climate change. “Ever single day we work to help the world get safe clean energy. “ pic.twitter.com/DJ1li8eBo2— JanetDirks (@janetdirks) December 17, 2018