Notley asks for oilsands aid as feds mull Bombardier bailout
As Ottawa considers bailing out Quebec-based Bombardier, the premier of Alberta is asking the federal government to also help the ailing oil industry.
Speaking on CTV's Question Period, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said her province is asking for support in three "key areas": expanded EI benefits; infrastructure funding; and a nation-wide strategy to help get Alberta oil to overseas markets.
Notley said the steady drop in oil prices has left many Albertans struggling, and the province needs relief in the form of "a fast-paced adjustment to the issue of EI."
Employment Insurance is currently based on historical unemployment rates, which puts Alberta at a disadvantage.
Under these rules, a worker in Alberta needs to work 655 hours before qualifying for EI, and are eligible for up to 38 weeks of benefits. But in Atlantic Canada, where unemployment has traditionally been high, workers only need to work 420 hours to qualify, and can receive up to 45 weeks of benefits.
To even this out, Notley is asking the federal government to expand EI eligibility in the province, and to lengthen the amount of time Albertans can receive benefits.
"We have families in Alberta that need that support now," she said.
In addition to help with EI, Notley asked for help with infrastructure – both in Alberta's cities and towns, and for its oil industry.
Notley asked the federal government to provide infrastructure to help the province "build up the infrastructure that's been ignored for many, many years while at the same time providing more jobs."
She also asked for federal leadership when it comes to building pipelines and other energy industry infrastructure.
"It is long past the time that we as a country enhance our capacity to have a nation-wide national energy infrastructure so we can get our product to the best market available to us," Notley said.
Alberta is currently promoting two proposed pipelines that would link the province's oilsands to the Canadian coast.
The proposed TransMountain expansion would run along an already-existing route through British Columbia and out to the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, the proposed Energy East pipeline would move about 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick.
Both projects are currently up for review before the National Energy Board, and have faced heavy criticism from some environmental groups, activists and politicians outside of Alberta.
In response, Notley said an "integrated energy strategy" will help all Canadians, not only Albertans.
"I understand that people in Quebec and other parts of the country are somewhat concerned," Notley said. "We can be environmentally responsible, but we absolutely have to get our product to tidewater … That's something that's critical for the federal government and it's a point that I never stop making."
In light of Alberta's recent economic woes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already pledged to give the province a $250-million payment from the federal stabilization fund. He's also agreed to fast-track up to $700 million in infrastructure that was slated to be released in the upcoming budget.
Notley and Bombardier aren't the only ones asking for federal funding right now.
A wide variety of lobbyists and special interest groups are currently pressuring the Liberals to fulfill their costly campaign pledges, as Finance Minister Bill Morneau prepares to release the upcoming budget.
The minister wrapped up four intense days of pre-budget consultations on Friday, and is expected to unveil the budget sometime late next month.