Premier Jason Kenney says he expects employment numbers in the oil and gas industry to become “much, much worse” in the months to come.
Kenney spoke to reporters on a conference call Thursday morning, when he discussed a number of topics, including the energy sector’s struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Statistics Canada report released Thursday morning shows a dip in general employment numbers across the country.
Kenney said in Alberta, oil and gas represents the “overwhelming majority” of a broad category called forestry, fishing, mining, quarry, oil and gas.
That category actually reported an increase of 8,700 jobs in March, he noted.
“I think that reflects the fact that in early March, we were continuing to see growth and renewed confidence in investment in oil and gas before everything started to crash,” Kenney said.
“I think you’ll see those numbers go in complete reverse.”
With the industry being Alberta’s biggest economic driver, the province will be hit hard by the collapsing price of oil, said Kenney.
“The rest of the world will likely experience a very strong recovery this summer post-pandemic, a V-shaped global recovery in demand and employment. We will not experience that in Alberta because of the oil price collapse,” he said.
“I expect our downturn to be deeper and longer than the rest of the world.”
Energy Minister Sonya Savage was involved in a video conference with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and energy ministers on Thursday to discuss global energy production, Kenney said.
“We think the Saudis and Russians are effectively trying to permanently damage North American energy production in U.S. shale and the Canadian oilsands.”
Kenney said he had a 45-minute conversation with the U.S. secretary of energy earlier this week about the same subject.
“I’ve been spending much of my week speaking with U.S. energy leaders about the need for a co-ordinated North American policy to defend our energy industry from the predatory dumping of oil on global markets by OPEC and Russia.”
The government has taken measures to help the energy sector, said Kenney.
“We’re basically paying for the Alberta energy regulator fees that would normally be paid by oil and gas companies this year.
“All of this to help them with the cash crisis they’re facing right now,” he said, adding the provincial government is working with the federal government to ensure access to credit for producers.