OTTAWA — The federal government has confirmed plans to provide $251.4 million to Alberta under a program designed to help provinces hit by sudden revenue downturns, a financial boost Premier Rachel Notley welcomed Monday, but said is “unfortunately not enough.”
“When you look at what we’ve lost in terms of the price of oil, it’s unfortunately not enough,” Notley said.
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The premier said the NDP would evaluate competing interests and revenue issues before allocating the money, but added she’s already identified other Alberta issues that need to be addressed by the federal government.
“We need to see some quick action on EI [employment insurance], we need a fast injection of infrastructure funding, and we need more help and support with respect to the issue of pipelines and access to markets. So those are our key issues that we’ll continue to push the federal government for.”
Alberta has been sideswiped by collapsing oil prices and the little-known fiscal stabilization program provides help when provincial revenues fall by more than five per cent from one year to the next.
“The drop in the price of oil is absolutely significant,” Notley said. “Certainly if you look at what’s happened in Alberta over the last 22 years, I would suggest that both the depth of the drop along with the expected duration of the drop is probably the worst we’ve seen in this province in 22 years.”
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Notley also suggested the federal government has a role to play in moving forward on the National Energy Board pipeline approval process.
“As much as the fed government decided that the NEB process needed to be recalibrated in order to gain the public trust that’s necessary for them to subsequently make a decision based on the recommendations of the NEB…it still needs to be done in a timely way. It can’t go on forever. We need a beginning, a middle, and an end to the NEB process and we need one that is cognizant of the critical import that pipeline infrastructure has not only for Alberta’s economy, but the nation’s economy.”
Alberta’s premier said in the meantime, she’ll continue to push for energy infrastructure and “remind the prime minister about the impact our inability to get our product to the best and most profitable market possible” is having on the country’s economy.
“Our ability to act like an integrated, energy-producing country is going to define whether or not international investors see us as a good bet in the long term.”
Money from the program is allocated on a per capita basis, at $60 a person.
Newfoundland and Labrador, which has also been hit by sagging oil prices, may also qualify and the federal government says it will quickly assess such a claim if the province applies for money.
“Canadians expect us to work together to help families through difficult times,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a statement.