Premier Rachel Notley says Alberta's owed economic payback from Ottawa
EDMONTON — Alberta has done "a lot of heavy lifting" for Canada for many years, and now it's time for some payback from Ottawa, says Premier Rachel Notley.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Edmonton today and will meet with Notley to talk about a broad range of topics.
Notley said she is pleased Trudeau is coming to visit, but there's one thing she wants to make crystal clear.
"The message will be delivered very, very clearly that Alberta needs the support of our federal government, we've truly been a fundamental part of the Canadian economy," Notley said.
"Now is the time when we need our federal government to come here and to work with us, to support us during the difficult times that we're facing."
The province's oil sector is also looking for strong signals that Trudeau is serious about helping deliver its controversial commodity to tidewater.
Mark Scholz, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, said federal support on the contentious issue of building pipelines is crucial.
He warned if the industry can't get its product to market, then Alberta businesses are going to fail.
For the sake of the whole country, it's important for Ottawa to partner with Alberta, said Deron Bilous, the provincial economic development minister.
"No matter which way you cut it, when Alberta does well, Canada does well," Bilous said Tuesday in an interview. "At the moment, we're not doing well."
Bilous said he expects the discussions between Trudeau and the Alberta government will focus on subjects like pipelines, job creation, economic diversification and federal infrastructure investment.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined Tuesday to answer several questions about whether Ottawa would provide targeted assistance for Alberta.
Instead, Morneau said the federal government's upcoming budget will include spending plans to invest in Canada's entire economy, which he argued will help struggling provinces such as Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Alberta.
Morneau confirmed that Alberta is working on an application for up to $250 million in federal cash under the fiscal stabilization program, a plan designed to help provinces struck by big year-to-year declines in revenues.
The Newfoundland government, which has also lost revenues in the oil-price slump, indicated Tuesday that it intends to make a claim under the stabilization program this spring. The province could be eligible for a maximum of about $32 million under the program.
Morneau said he's unsure whether Newfoundland and Saskatchewan would qualify for the program, although they could apply.
Trudeau's trip takes place as the regional battle over pipelines heats up.
Earlier this month, the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan expressed dismay after Montreal-area municipal leaders publicly voiced their opposition to the proposed Energy East project, which would transport Prairie oil through their territory to tidewater in New Brunswick. They argued that potential threats to the environment outweigh any economic benefits.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has questioned whether Quebecers should continue to expect billions in equalization payments if they won't support the export of resources that help drive those payments.
On Monday, he challenged Trudeau to take a stand and support the project.
"We need a champion for the energy sector," Wall said after delivering a speech in Regina.
Pipeline politics have also dominated debate in Parliament, where the Conservatives have accused the Liberal government of causing more harm to Alberta workers.
Last week, the federal government announced additional environmental reviews to bolster public confidence in the pipeline assessment process, including more consultations with indigenous communities.
Environmental groups argue any new pipeline approval by Ottawa would undermine the Liberals' vow to cut greenhouse gas emissions.