EDMONTON – A well-known Canadian businessman is pleading with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to resign “for the sake of Canadians.” Kevin O’Leary said he will invest $1 million in the oil industry if Notley steps down.
“She’s got to go. Let me be the first to make that offer,” O’Leary said in a recent radio interview.
“The Alberta government is in free fall, total chaos there. There’s no confidence for anybody anywhere to invest dollars because obviously the commodity is correcting but the policy there is completely out of control.
“We don’t know what they’re going to do in royalties, they’ve raised corporate taxes, 52,000 have lost their jobs.”
O’Leary told the Toronto-based Newstalk 1010’s Live Drive radio show he wouldn’t get involved in the industry now because Notley “doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
“I mean no disrespect,” the former Dragon’s Den host added. “She must know she’s in 1,000 feet of water and she can’t breathe.”
O’Leary said Alberta needs a leader who’s made payroll in the energy industry and worked with energy companies. He said there needs to be a relationship between the government and industry in order to retain jobs.
“Fifty-two-thousand people in Alberta lost their jobs, not just because of the government but because the price of oil collapsed, and now because of government policy, every leader of a private sector energy company in Canada is unsure of what’s going happen next.”
“I’ll put the first million down,” O’Leary said. “Please, I’m asking her please, please step down, do it for the sake of Canadians, do it for the sake of all of us.”
Notley was asked about the O’Leary comment during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“The last time a group of wealthy businessmen tried to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I ended up becoming premier,” she said. “So if now we’ve got a Toronto wealthy businessman who wants to tell Alberta voters how to vote, I say bring it on.”
The call for change came as investors braced for another tough day on the markets. Oil prices plummeted even further on Monday, closing the day below $32 a barrel.
A number of analysts have adjusted their oil predictions. Some have projected a decline as low as $20 a barrel.
Notley said the province will have to make some adjustments to budgets, but she added the government expected it would have to make those changes and is doing that work already.
She said the NDP will focus on stability and diversification.
“We don’t want to get into a panic slash-and-burn kind of dynamic where we simply take a problem and make it worse. We also want to ensure that we continue to invest in the kinds of programs that support Albertans and that support diversification, and support job growth, to the extent that we can. You know, I’m not a magician.”
Chaldeans Mensah, a political science professor at MacEwan University says Notley can’t be blamed for plunging oil prices or a falling loonie.
“This government has been handed a very, very bad situation.”
However, he says she can use this bad situation to send a strong message.
“I’m the premier of Alberta and I’m going to support this industry, which means I’m going to have to delay some of my policy platforms in terms of the carbon tax the royalty review,” Mensah said. “If she does that, I think she will really win over popular support.”
“The disincentives to growth will hopefully be minimized to some extent in the new process,” Notley said. “We’re very, very conscious of the situation we’re in here in Alberta… We’re going to bring forward a process that is predictable, more transparent and… in no way should undermine the situation they’re in now.”
He said the premier won’t resign, but O’Leary’s comments aren’t too surprising.
“Kevin O’Leary is expressing a widespread disquiet in the investment community about the investment climate in Alberta right now. this is coinciding with the precipitous drop in oil prices,” Chaldeans said. “They’re looking for certainty.”