The federal finance minister told Albertans to have confidence in the federal government’s response to the oil crisis on Monday.
Bill Morneau said the feds are working to make sure product gets to the international market soon during a stop in Edmonton on a Budget 2019 tour.
During the question and answer period, one audience member stood up to say Bill C-69 and C-48 are “starving Albertans.”
The former would change how infrastructure projects like pipelines are assessed and approved. The Alberta government has said in its current form, Bill C-69 would impact the province’s right to manage its own resources. Bill C-48 would prohibit oil tankers on B.C.’s northern coast.
“What we need as Albertans is for the Government of Canada to get on board with pipelines and—more than buying them—allowing that investment from the private sector,” the man told Morneau to a round of applause.
“So what are you guys going to do about that?”
The minister responded he was hopeful the bill, currently under review by the senate, would address the public’s concerns.
“I would ask you to suspend disbelief for a little while,” Morneau told the crowd. “I hope you would see where we get to and say ‘Yes, it is actually going to put us in a better situation than we would’ve been otherwise.’”
He assured the audience that pipelines would be coming—with proper consultation and review—but that in the meantime, the government would be working to diversify the energy industry.
This year’s federal budget allocates $100 million to the Clean Resource Innovation Network, a group dedicated to lowering environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry.
“In our budget, we thought not only about how we get our resources to international markets, but how we continue to ensure our resources are the cleanest in the world,” Morneau said.
He also spoke about improving high-speed internet access and offering help to first-time home buyers.
While Edmonton’s Chamber of Commerce President said she heard some ideas she liked at Wednesday’s event, she believes business has been hurt by federal red tape and antiquated tax rules.
“Businesses here feel that this tax system is quite inefficient and bogged down in detail that is unnecessary,” Janet Riopel said.
According to Riopel, the chamber had wanted a commitment from Morneau on when the federal deficit would be balanced.
“And I don’t think we heard that today,” she said.
Although he didn’t speak to a timeline, Morneau did address the national deficit, saying Canada, when compared to other G7 countries, has the lowest economic debt.
“We are in a very favourable position compared to other economies to deal with what might be a challenge in the future.”
The finance minister also went over the rules in Budget 2019 that will provide an extra $2.2 billion to municipalities through the Gas Tax Fund, something Edmonton’s mayor has called a “gesture of confidence in local governments.”