Demonstrators who have vowed to keep their pro-oil message front and centre gathered in downtown Edmonton on Friday morning outside the building where the federal natural resources minister was speaking before business leaders.
Inside the World Trade Centre building, Amarjeet Sohi was speaking before the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce about Ottawa’s fall economic statement and what it means for Alberta’s economic future.
Organizers of Canada Action Coalition said the group plans to show up every time a federal cabinet minister does because it’s important Canadians see the “pain” caused by low oil prices blamed on insufficient pipeline access to markets.
Sohi said he understands where the demonstators are coming from and agrees with their arguments.
“We are all supporters of the pipeline, because we know that we need to get our resources to non-U.S. markets so we get proper pricing for Alberta’s oil,” Sohi said after his breakfast speech and Q&A.
“The amount of money that we are losing is completely unacceptable and we understand their frustration. We share their frustration and we’re working really, really hard to make sure that we are building the pipeline capacity to deal with this issue.”
Canada Action Coalition wants the government to rethink its Bill C-69 to revamp the National Energy Board and Bill C-48 to ban oil tankers on the northern coast of British Columbia, noting both make building pipelines more difficult. Both proposals have been passed in the House of Commons and are being considered in the Senate.
Opponents of Bill C-69 have gathered several times across Alberta this fall. Earlier this month in Calgary, hundreds of demonstrators chanted “Build that pipe now” and jammed downtown Calgary streets for protests coinciding with speeches by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and five days later by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
On Thursday, Premier Rachel Notley acknowledged the Calgary protests during a speech in Toronto, saying she has a background in labour movement demonstrations and this “wasn’t your typical protest.”
“This one took on a totally organic life of its own,” Notley said, adding people dropped what they were doing and flooded the streets. “There were so many people the police needed to shut streets down.
“I cannot stress to you enough how real this is for Albertans. The differential isn’t just numbers on a screen and economists talking. It’s real people, with real bills to pay and real concerns about the future.”
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The price for Alberta crude — Western Canadian Select — fell to about $10 a barrel this week, about $40 less than it should be getting when compared to other world oil prices such as West Texas Intermediate or Brent Crude, which are trading at around $50 and $60 a barrel, respectively.
Notley reiterated Alberta’s call to change the Bill C-69, saying it will make it much more difficult than it already is to build badly-needed economic infrastructure.
Notley is also calling on Ottawa to do two other things: Scrap Bill C-48, which exempts LNG tankers headed up the Douglas Channel to Kitimat, B.C.; and invest in transporting oil by rail as a short-term solution with the long-term goal of building more pipelines, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
— With files from The Canadian Press