Could Canada's energy sector be pushed out of focus amid auto sector challenges?
Justin Trudeau’s pledge to help General Motors workers who are facing the prospect of unemployment may not sit well in Alberta, according to former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan.
“We’re talking about more than 100,000 workers that were displaced in Alberta and there was none of this discussion about assistance of any kind,” Morgan told BNN Bloomberg in a Monday interview, referencing the thousands of layoffs in Alberta that resulted from the oil price collapse in 2014.
Still, Morgan said government assistance for laid-off workers isn’t what Alberta’s struggling energy sector needs today.
“Let’s face it – the problem in Alberta and the oil industry, the discount, is so significant that the government simply doesn’t have any means and can’t possibly help, except through getting those pipelines built. And we know what’s happening on that file,” Morgan said.
Trudeau tweeted on Monday that the federal government will “do everything we can to help the families affected by this news get back on their feet,” as GM confirmed plans to cut more than 14,000 jobs and put seven plants on the chopping block, including its Oshawa, Ont. facility.
Trudeau’s statement comes less than a week after the federal government released a fall fiscal update that did not include measures to address the widening discount on Western Canadian Select compared to the North American crude benchmark, Western Texas Intermediate.
Morgan stressed that he does not think Western Canadians are necessarily looking for a handout, but would rather the energy industry not be hindered by major project delays and cancellations.
“Canada has such amazingly difficult rules and procedures to get anything done that we simply can’t get the oil out,” Morgan said. “That’s all the people want done, is to have a system that allows them to build what they need to do to get their oil to market.”
“Albertans, particularly – and Saskatchewanites, as well – aren’t people who look to the government for help.”
However, with a federal election scheduled for next October, Morgan said that the Trudeau government should be concerned with mounting negative sentiment in Western Canada.
“The reality is that I think everybody was hopeful and reasonably neutral on Prime Minister Trudeau. But when you see him kill what would be major projects that are the lifeline of your projects and your people, how could you ever have anything but a negative view?”