Jack Mintz to lead Alberta special panel amid oil collapse
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government will consider whatever it takes to rescue the province from an oil price collapse and he wants the federal government to step up as well.
Kenney says energy exports are the linchpin of both the Alberta and federal economies.
He says he'll be asking Ottawa for financial incentives to help create jobs in reclaiming orphan wells and to provide relief on payroll taxes.
He says Alberta has been good to Canada and it's time for Canada to return the favour.
Kenney says his own United Conservative government will look at a range of choices that include borrowing money for more capital spending to boost jobs, a return to tax incentives to lure high-tech startups and directly subsidizing a barrel of oil.
The premier is striking an emergency panel to be headed up by economist Jack Mintz.
“All options will be on the table. I repeat: all options will be on the table to do everything that we can within our capacity to help protect jobs and Albertans,” Kenney told a news conference in Calgary on Monday.
“This is not just about Alberta. As Alberta goes, so goes the national economy.”
Alberta's energy industry, already suffering from reduced demand due to the novel coronavirus, is taking a gut punch due to an all-out price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The price for West Texas Intermediate crude fell to just under US$30 a barrel on Monday. Alberta has budgeted its oil revenue based on US$58 a barrel. Each $1 drop in price represents a cut of about $200 million from Alberta's bottom line.
Kenney, saying now is not the time for partisan politics, said he'll be reaching out to rival politicians, including Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley, for advice.
Notley, speaking at a news conference in Edmonton, said Kenney needs to withdraw his budget and submit a new one that recognizes how free-falling oil prices are decimating revenues.
Notley said the low prices will conservatively send the projected deficit for 2020-21 to almost $11 billion from $6.8 billion.
She said Kenney has left Alberta vulnerable by slashing corporate income taxes last year and using wildly optimistic oil revenue projections in the budget introduced almost two weeks ago.
She also said Kenney was wrong when his government dismantled tax incentives last fall designed to lure more diversified businesses, including high-tech companies, to Alberta.
Notley urged Kenney to convene a dual-party committee to figure out a way to get through the oil-price crisis.
Kenney said he will not be withdrawing his budget. He noted it's three weeks to the end of the fiscal year and the province needs a new budget in place.
The UCP won last April's election on a promise to focus on revitalizing oil and gas while eradicating a string of multibillion-dollar deficits.
Kenney said last week that his government's goal of balancing the books by 2023 might not happen.