The federal government’s $1.6 billion announcement Tuesday to help struggling oil and gas companies won’t get out-of-work Canadians back into the workforce, said Richard Masson, executive fellow at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.
“It may be able to prevent layoffs,” said Masson. “What it doesn’t do is — all the production companies, the drilling companies and the contractors in Canada who aren’t working right now, it doesn’t really help them.”
Masson said the only way to get those in the industry back to work is through better pipeline access and better prices for Alberta oil.
“This amount of money directed at these kinds of programs does not really address the issues Alberta has been facing over the last number of weeks,” said Masson.
“It’s not going to have much of an immediate impact.”
According to Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI), since the the oil and gas boom of 2014, Canada has lost more than 45,000 jobs in the energy sector and frustration has been mounting over the federal government’s response to the oil crisis.
Those numbers represent people like Terry Reid, an environmental engineer with 20 years of experience, who was laid off in February 2015. Reid has been desperately searching for work, hoping for the industry to turn around.
He’s cashed in TFSAs and RRSPs and has sold most of his assets. His house is now up for sale in Calgary because, he said, he has no choice.
“That’s what I’ve got to use to think about groceries in the next couple of weeks,” said Reid. “House sales are down. I’m going to take a big loss on my house if I do sell it.”
Reid has also found ways to save, from hunting to lower his grocery bill to conserving energy. He said some months his energy bill is as low as $2. He wants to see that kind of innovation from government.
“If we don’t want to use hydrocarbons going forward or support this industry, than what are we doing to keep the jobs intact and continue the cash flow within this country?” he said, pointing to investment in solar and wind energy as possible solutions.
Watch: The federal government has announced it will inject $1.6 billion into Alberta’s struggling energy sector. It’s being touted as a way to support jobs, but as Quinn Ohler reports, it’s not going to get anyone back to work anytime soon.
Drayton Valley has been particularly hard-hit by the oil price differential. Earlier this month hundreds rallied calling for the immediate construction of new pipeline.
Some residents in the community said Tuesday the Liberal government announcement doesn’t go far enough.
“It doesn’t help us at all,” said Tim Cameron, a Drayton Valley resident advocating for a pipeline. “We’re drowning and they’re feeding us water.”
When asked if he was frustrated, Cameron replied: “That is an understatement.”
“This doesn’t help us today,” he stressed.
Watch: International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr explains how Tuesday’s funding announcement will help the energy industry.
Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi did reference the need for more access to non-U.S. international markets, but did not any new plan to deal with the issue. There was also no announcement regarding funding for oil cars that the Alberta government plans to purchase.
That plan to buy more rail cars to help ship additional oil, as well as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s decision to force a production cut from the biggest oil producers starting in January, helped push the price back up but it’s still significantly less than the U.S. price.
Canada’s economy is losing as much as $80 million a day because of the discount.
Watch: With the federal government pumping $1.6 billion into Alberta’s struggling oil sector, the province says oil companies don’t need to take on more debt. As Mercedes Stephenson reports, what Alberta and those companies really want is a pipeline.
With files from The Canadian Press, Phil Heidenreich and Karen Bartko