CALGARY – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put on his cowboy hats and boots one more time Saturday assuring a screaming audience at a Calgary Stampede breakfast that Albertans are picking themselves up again after a slump in the economy.
“Can I get a ya-hoo?,” Trudeau asked as he took the stage at a pancake breakfast hosted by his cabinet colleague Kent Hehr.
“What an amazing pleasure it is for me to be back, every year at Stampede … to celebrate the Greatest Show on Earth, to celebrate the friendliest, happiest week in all of Canada here at Stampede,” said Trudeau to loud applause and whistles.
Any celebration in Alberta is under a cloud these days.
Oil and gas have long been the mainspring of Alberta’s economy, delivering multibillion-dollar surpluses earlier this decade.
But the benchmark price for oil has fallen from a high of more than US$100 a barrel in June 2014 to about US$46 today.
Every $1 drop in the average price of oil over the course of a year drains $170 million from Alberta’s coffers. The provincial deficit is expected to exceed $10 billion this year.
The downturn has resulted in cancelled or delayed energy products and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the Alberta oilpatch.
“A big part of Calgary, a big part of Canada’s identity is looking our for each other in tough times as well,” Trudeau said. “We know that things haven’t been easy here in Alberta, and after years and years of Alberta doing great and supporting the rest of the country, it’s time for the rest of the country to be supporting Alberta.
“I’ll tell you the truth, I know Calgarians, I know Albertans. You don’t need a lot of support. You guys are doing great. You’re picking yourselves up again after a slump.”
Trudeau has been getting pressure from the energy sector and the Alberta government to approve pipelines so oil can get to international market.
WATCH: Trudeau speaks on world issues at the Calgary Stampede
Premier Rachel Notley said last week there can’t be any unnecessary federal delays when it comes approving a new pipeline — any pipeline — to transport Alberta’s oil.
The future of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is now in the hands of Trudeau’s government after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed a permit issued for the project.
Kinder Morgan’s bid to triple the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., is before the federal government after the National Energy Board sanctioned the $6.8-billion project in May.
“We just can’t dither on this for a lot longer,” warned Notley.
But the prime minister pointed out at a Friday news conference that the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper was unable to accomplish the task with 10 years in office.
“The fact that in eight months we haven’t completed something that 10 years of the previous government was unable to complete is high expectations of me,” Trudeau said
“We’re working hard to get this done the right way because that’s what Canadians expect.”