OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels Wednesday to Alberta, where the battered oil sector will be looking for strong signals that Ottawa is serious about helping them deliver their controversial commodity to tidewater.
The president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors says the industry isn’t looking for a handout — just federal support on the contentious issue of building pipelines.
Mark Scholz warns if the industry can’t get its product to market, then Alberta businesses are going to fail.
Trudeau’s visit to Alberta comes as low commodity prices decimate business and government revenues in the resource-dependent province, forcing companies to lay off workers.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined today to answer several questions about whether Ottawa would provide targeted assistance for Alberta.
Morneau says the federal government’s upcoming budget will include spending plans to invest in Canada’s entire economy — which he argues will also help struggling provinces like Alberta.
Alberta is expected to make a claim 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.
Morneau says other hard-hit regions like Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador could also apply for money under the program, though he’s unsure whether they would qualify.
Ottawa is looking at potential solutions for Alberta, including speeding up already-promised infrastructure spending and adjusting the typical, per-capita infrastructure funding disbursement formula to reflect economic need.
Trudeau has pledged to pump an additional $60 billion over 10 years into infrastructure projects, but only $17.4 billion was earmarked to flow during the Liberals’ first four-year mandate.
Ottawa is also said to be considering whether to increase direct transfers to individuals, perhaps through modifications to the employment insurance program.
The Liberals promised to enhance EI during the fall election campaign by, for example, reducing the waiting time for benefits to kick in.