Federal "support" package underlines that Liberals view Oil & Gas as a "twilight industry"

I’ve read and listened to the December 18 announcement from the Government of Canada – and I remain in doubt that this government wants to solve any of the problems facing our resource industry.

First off, let’s remind ourselves of the Trudeau Government’s financial investment in the TransMountain Pipeline.  The acquisition – spending taxpayer dollars bailing out a U.S. company (Kinder Morgan) that had run into a headwall of process beyond anything envisaged by anyone prior to their commitment to expanding their 50 year old pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby. 


I recall being a disbeliever then – as I was certain the Prime Minister did not want to have protests around Vancouver leading up to the 2019 federal election – and I’ve always thought his words on making progress on both energy and the environment were scripted emptiness. 

Flash forward to the next hurdle – the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on the NEB’s consultation role with (some) native bands, and the non-inclusion of the marine traffic assessment on killer whales whose habitat includes the shipping lanes of all marine traffic.  It was an easy excuse to put the brakes on a crucial piece of energy infrastructure. Pausing and re-assessing was not the Government’s only option – but it was the one conveniently chosen.

The dual message was clear then:  The Trudeau Government doesn’t mind writing cheques of convenience (from taxpayer funds) to give the appearance they are moving forward – but when it comes to real action – and choices – to move key infrastructure forward, they will sit on their hands.

Now, $1.6 Billion of taxpayer funds is being allocated to give the appearance of support to the oil and gas industry.  I suspect this conversion of convenience from the Trudeau Government arises because the message from the oil and gas sector – and the people of Alberta, through peaceful demonstrations – has finally reached the ears and eyes of voting Canadians beyond the producing provinces

When Canadians learned that about $80 million of Canadian wealth is being drained into the U.S. every day, it raised concerns about the economic damage being done to this country by this Liberal Government’s policies.  But the Trudeau Government has known this for a long time and chosen not to act in a substantial way.  Indeed, the matter wasn’t even deemed important enough to be part of the First Ministers Conference two weeks ago – until the insistence of producing provinces had it placed, reluctantly, on the agenda.  It is the single largest constraint on Canada’s economy.  Yet, inaction, and avoidance of the issue has been the Trudeau Government’s response.

I’ve seen the breakdown of the $1.6 Billion.  I have questions as to how these solve our resource egress problems.

  • $500 million is being allocated by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) for commercial loans to ‘higher-risk but viable oil and gas small business enterprises’  to weather the current market uncertainty.

That might look good as words on paper or coming out a politician’s mouth – but I can say that every business in this sector has been ‘viable’ – and the Government’s inaction on access to markets has created the current market uncertainty.  I don’t know how BDC is going to pick which companies are more viable, and thereby, more worthy of largesse from Canadian taxpayers.  As an aside, let’s not forget our balance of equalization payments to other parts of Canada (about 10x the amount committed by the Government in today’s announcement).

  • $1 Billion from Export Development Corporation (EDC) ‘to assist companies looking to invest in innovative technologies, address working capital needs or explore new markets.’

Really?  They’ve increased the budget of EDC’s allocation to the oil and gas industry.  But this ‘explore new markets’ matter confuses me.  Perhaps I require clarification.  Do they have to be ‘viable’ (like the BDC funding) and therefore, eligible for financing from other parties?  The Liquid Propane Gas terminal project undertaken by Altagas in Prince Rupert comes to mind.  This is just taxpayers’ money displacing other funds.  But it sure makes the Trudeau Government look like they are doing something with your tax dollars.  To no effect.  Otherwise, how do we explore new markets without the infrastructure to do so?  The solution is to sanction the pipelines to be built – including to the Northwest coast of British Columbia, and to repeal Bill C-69.

  • The other $150 million is a smattering of innovation funding that I recall already being addressed in government programs – but perhaps if this represents an increase in funding for energy efficiency efforts, it might move the bar on our real energy objectives somewhat.  But it does not address the egress issues for our resources, and it will not abate the job losses which are on the immediate horizon.

I strongly suspect this Prime Minister has chosen to deal with the oil and gas industry as a ‘twilight industry’. 

And his key advisors – including his Chief of Staff, Gerald Butts who has actively worked with U.S. funded parties to shut down Canada’s oil and gas industry – have led him to believe that Canada won’t need our resources in the near future.  So strangling our resource industry – all while nodding and smiling – and committing taxpayer funds to avoid the perception that his actions and inactions on this file are harming Canada – flies in obvious conflict with the approach taken by Canada’s trading partners around the world. 

Perhaps, I need to be harsh and suggest strongly to the Prime Minister that, if he really wants to do something about solving the problems facing Canada’s oil and gas sector – so vital to our national economy – the first step to take is to dismiss his Chief of Staff, Gerald Butts.  He is conflicted on this file – having served as a foreign paid lobbyist against the development and export of Canada’s vital natural resources. 

But this Government is no stranger to conflicts of interest.

Greg McLeanComment