Rachel Notley to Prime Minister Trudeau: Alberta needs help from Canada
Dear Prime Minister:
In recent days, the arrival of the coronavirus in Alberta, coupled with the accelerated drop in energy prices, has left our province particularly vulnerable
As you are aware, the Price of West Texas Intermediate, the North American bench mark plummeted from a high of roughly $60/bbl in January to $28.84/bbl this past Sunday. The combination of a demand shock for energy products brought on by the coronavirus, coupled with additional supply brough on by the collapse of the OPEC+ arrangement, has left out energy sector and all Albertans in an exceedingly difficult position. We have already witnessed significant reductions in planned private sector capital investment in our province, and we fear that significant job losses will follow.
In light of these circumstances and as you finalize the 2020 federal Budget, I am writing to formally request your support on a number of actions that could meaningfully help Alberta.
I appreciate these actions announced today, March 11 2020, in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Canada, including the elimination of Employment Insurance waiting period, and efforts underway to explore additional income supports for those ineligible for EI sickness benefits. While these measures are undoubtedly needed and appropriate at the national level, further actions to support Albertans struggling with the additional economic costs of the oil price drop during these difficult times are called form. Therefore, I am requesting that the Government of Canada:
- Include in the Budget Implementation Act 2020, the elimination of the fiscal stabilization cap currently set at $60 per capita. While this necessary reform was bypassed by the Stephen Harper government, I know we have previously had substantive discussions about removing this cap. Given the circumstances facing Alberta, the time for action is now.
- Immediately reduce the number of insurable hours required to qualify for EI insurance benefits to 420 hours, for all Albertans.
- Extend EI insurance coverage to the maximum period of length available in Canada
- Immediately advance and ultimately increase all federal infrastructure funds earmarked for Alberta, so that we can put those funds to work now, creating good construction jobs and creating a more durable foundation for our economic recovery. Part of the additional spend should be target to clean technology initiatives.
- Advance an additional $500 million in funds to the Orphan Well Association – in the form of a loan – to quintuple the promised investment that was announced last week by the Government of Alberta. This investment will create jobs in the energy drilling sector, meaningfully offsetting some of the damage cause by the collapse in energy prices, while also advancing necessary environmental remediation work in Alberta.
Prime Minister, Alberta is entering another very difficult time, We survived the oil price collapse of 2014-2016, and we managed the market access issues of Fall 2018 with the creativity and ingenuity that Albertans are known and respected for. However, the confluence of events of early 2020 requires support and help from the rest of Canada.
I believe the actions I have outlined will make a meaningful contribution to our province as we navigate these difficult circumstances.
I look forward to your response.
Leader of the Official Opposition, Alberta