A day after leaders with the federal Green Party and the Bloc Québécois suggested they believe Canada’s embattled oil industry may not bounce back, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney fired back at their comments and touted the energy sector’s contributions to Canada.
“Please stop kicking us while we’re down,” Kenney said at a news conference in Edmonton on Thursday.
Kenney’s comments came after a reporter asked him what he thought of comments made by the Green Party’s parliamentary leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet on Wednesday.
May told reporters that she believes “oil is dead” and that her “heart bleeds for people who believe the sector is going to come back, because it’s not.”
She cited the crash in prices which has been brought on in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, actions recently taken on the commodity by Russia and Saudi Arabia and a growing demand for green technology when she offered her opinion.
Blanchet said he understood the importance of governments trying to protect jobs, but said he thinks the “tar sands won’t be back” and that any money going towards Alberta trying to stabilize its fiscal crisis should be focused on building a greener economy.
“I just think it’s deeply regrettable that we would see national political leaders piling on Albertans and energy workers at a time of great trial for us,” Kenney said Thursday. “This is the opposite of leadership.
“The Canadian energy industry has done more than any in modern Canadian history to create jobs and prosperity, to fund social programs and government services and to unite Canadians with our equalization payments and transfers across the country, to which Alberta has contributed over $600 billion in recent decades, thanks largely to our energy resources.”
Kenney said Quebec consumes 60,000 barrels of oil per day and noted the province has seen a surge in recent years of SUVs and larger vehicles.
LISTEN: It’s time to support Canadian oil
“They enjoy the benefits of living in a modern industrial economy which is predicated on access to affordable energy, much of which — half of which for Quebec — comes from Alberta,” he said.
Kenney added that if Quebec weren’t getting oil from Alberta, it would be bringing in even more of the commodity from other countries.
“Because of the global coronavirus recession and crash in demand, because of the predatory actions of dictatorships who have been trying to drive North American energy out of business so they don’t have to compete with democratic oil, they want to dominate the world with dictator oil,” he said.
“Because of their irresponsibility, we’ve seen the lowest prices in history which has worsened an already terrible economic crisis in this province and therefore in this country.”
Kenney also said Quebec’s health-care system benefits from equalization payments, for which Alberta has contributed significantly over the years as a “have” province.
He also delivered a message directly to Quebecers in French at the news conference.
Last month, Kenney was asked if his government would consider meeting with Green New Deal advocates, who support a widespread transition away from fossil fuel energy, in an effort to look at moving away from oil as the industry struggles.
“When you talk about the Green New Deal, listen, our focus is on getting people back to work in Alberta, not pie-in-the-sky ideological schemes,” he said on April 24. “We are actually not trying to amplify, but fight back against the political agenda of the green left that has been trying to landlock Alberta energy.
“So we’re not going to try to co-operate with the folks that are trying to shut down Canada’s single-largest subsector.”
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he rejects the comments made by May and Blanchet on Wednesday.
“I don’t share that assessment,” he said.
“I know that if we are to move forward in transforming our economy towards lower emissions and clean processes, workers and innovators in Alberta and across the country in the energy sector are going to be an essential part of that transition.”
–With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly
Watch below: Some recent Global News videos about Canada’s oil industry.