Ottawa offers $1.6B backstop for energy sector as political tensions with Alberta fester

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The federal government is promising more than $1.6 billion — most of it in commercial loans —  to support the ailing energy sector, as political tensions in the Ottawa-Alberta relationship simmer.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr made the announcement in Edmonton this morning.

The bulk of the money, $1 billion in commercial support, comes from Export Development Canada’s coffers, the national export credit agency. It’s meant for oil and gas exporters who want to invest in new technologies and diversify their markets.

The funding package also includes $500 million over three years from the Business Development Bank of Canada, a Crown corporation, to help smaller companies increase operational and environmental efficiency, buy new technology and equipment or expand into new markets.

The government first made an official request to the EDC and BDC about making targeted money available this fall, said a senior government source.

An additional $150 million is pegged for clean growth and infrastructure projects — $50 million of it coming from Natural Resources Canada’s current Clean Growth Program, a $155 million investment fund for clean technology research and development.

Sohi said the money will be available immediately.

Concerned oil field workers watch as Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr, left, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi, centre and Randy Boissonnault, Edmonton M.P. speak during press conference to announce support for Canada’s oil and gas sector, in Edmonton on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The price for Alberta’s crude tumbled to $11 a barrel in late November, inciting panic among industry players and politicians.

« When Alberta hurts, so does Canada, » said Sohi. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who was not on hand for today’s announcement, has called on Ottawa to help the province buy new rail cars to ship two additional tanker trains full of Alberta crude out of the province every day.

Today’s funding announcement didn’t mention rail cars.

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney called the investment « too little, too late. » In a news release, Alberta’s opposition leader said if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government was serious about helping Alberta energy workers, it would nix Bill C-69 — legislation overhauling Canada’s energy project assessment system — and Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers from the northern B.C. coast.

« Alberta’s NDP government made a critical mistake in putting all their faith in their alliance with the Trudeau Liberal government, and today Albertans are facing the consequences, » said Kenney.

Watch Sohi speak about aid for the energy industry

Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi spoke to reporters in Edmonton on Tuesday 2:55

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