‘Crisis’ in energy sector not reflected in throne speech, says Jason Kenney

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney had harsh words for the federal government’s throne speech, saying the Liberal energy agenda will “strangle investment and jeopardize resource jobs [in Alberta].”

“Alberta is disappointed that instead of listening to Canada’s provinces, the federal government doubled down on policies that will kill jobs, make Canada poorer and weaken national unity,” Kenney said in a statement.

However, some members of the oil and gas industry said they were happy with some promises outlined in the speech.

In the nearly hour-long speech, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette said the government intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing home retrofits and infrastructure spending.

Tax incentives will also be introduced for companies that build zero-emissions products, and the government has also promised to meet Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Watch: Government outlines its environmental policy goals

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivered the 150th speech from the throne in the Senate chamber on Wednesday. 2:25

But Kenney said the speech did not include “one word” that recognized the challenges facing the energy sector, adding that the province is presently in court to fight the federal government’s carbon tax and would soon be in court to challenge Bill C-69.

“Alberta has never asked for a handout,” Kenney said. “Instead, we are merely asking for the federal government to support our province in the same way that Alberta has supported Canada for generations.

“The first thing they can do is hit the pause button on policies that unfairly and unconstitutionally target the economic engine of Canada.”

Kenney also said Ottawa should “give back” $6 billion to Alberta through changes to its fiscal stabilization program, a program that provides financial assistance to those provinces and territories experiencing significant economic declines.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks during a televised national address, also argued that Ottawa wasn’t doing enough to address western alienation.

“We must show our fellow Canadians that we value them, and respect their contributions to our country,” he said.

Industry response

Reaction to the federal government’s strategy among industry is likely to be mixed and will be better understood as exact details are unveiled, but some was available shortly after the speech concluded Wednesday.

Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said CAPP had “three clear asks” of the government in the throne speech, one of which was addressed.

“We had put forward that government needed to be clear that oil and gas was part of their future, and that investment in oil and gas were welcomed in Canada, because we felt that there was confusion globally about whether Canada did want to see these sorts of jobs created,” McMillan said.

“In the throne speech, there was some very clear language about the energy sector, about them creating long-term jobs, so that’s good.” 

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers President and CEO Tim McMillan said CAPP had made “three clear asks” of the federal government prior to the speech from the throne. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

McMillan said CAPP had two other specific asks, both of which were not addressed.

“One was about fairness in the tax system, treating oil and gas investments similar to other sectors,” he said. “The third was about inefficient regulatory systems driving investment out, and that was not addressed. So we have some work to do.”

Tone of speech was positive, CAODC says

In a release, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors said that overall, the tone of the speech was positive for those in the natural resource industries.

The organization cited Payette’s pledge to continue supporting Canada’s manufacturing, energy and forestry industries.

“It was encouraging to hear the government acknowledge how important Canadian energy truly is, not only to provide good jobs, affordable energy, and a high standard of living, but also to protect and advocate for the environment both at home, and around the world,” said CAODC president and CEO Mark A. Scholz.

The organization specifically cited the extension of the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy as a positive which will help struggling oil and gas companies.

Energy transition

Bruce Wilson is the director of Iron and Earth, a non-profit that consists of fossil fuel workers who are “interested in participating in the energy transition.”

Wilson said he was happy to hear talk in the throne speech surrounding support for training workers, something he said oil companies want.

“I think we have [to] attach green strings, green conditions to any support that is given, that it must be committed to the journey toward net zero,” Wilson said. “But the big advantage is that they can train people on the job, without people losing their job, they can make that change.

“We should not wish for the demise of energy companies. We should wish for them to change direction wholeheartedly, and we should encourage them to do so.”

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