Gateway Gazette

Alberta to Focus on Jobs, Health, Economy at First Ministers’ Meeting

Premier Jason Kenney will emphasize job protection and economic relief for workers and employers threatened by COVID-19 and the international oil price war as he joins federal, provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa at the First Ministers’ Meeting.

Premier Jason Kenney speaks to media in the Calgary International Airport, March 11, before departing for the First Ministers Meeting in Ottawa.

“Alberta and Canada are currently in uncharted territory, facing an economic crisis complicated by a public health threat, so it’s more important than ever for Canada’s premiers and prime minister to be laser-focused on protecting jobs and providing relief. I’m looking forward to ensuring Alberta jobs and the unique concerns of our provincial economy are priorities on the national stage.”Jason Kenney, Premier

The public health threat of the COVID-19 virus, which has already resulted in a global economic slowdown, will be top of mind for the Alberta delegation at the meeting. Premier Kenney welcomes the federal government’s recent announcement to expand eligibility for the Employment Insurance program and looks forward to working with the federal government to ensure that Albertans following medical advice and self-isolating or in quarantine from COVID-19 can access necessary financial supports without delay.

Premier Kenney will also be sending the message that shocks to our energy industry from an oil price war between Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States is a national economic concern, not just a western issue. It will require federal as well as provincial help to protect workers and employers, including measures such as payroll tax relief, job-creating stimulus, and access to capital to ensure our companies do not become collateral damage in a geopolitical economic war and to help our economy survive the worst that is ahead and emerge stronger when it ends.

These global threats transcend provincial boundaries and require bold leadership to ensure our province is resilient and safe. Our workers and companies, as well as global investors, need to see that we have a plan to protect jobs and our economy during these uncertain times.

Among the requests Premier Kenney will be making or reiterating in Ottawa are:

  • An “equalization rebate” and reform of the Fiscal Stabilization Program
  • Immediate relief for job creators and workers to get them through the current crisis, including expanded EI rules, payroll tax relief, and access to capital
  • Economic competitiveness to show global investors Canada is still a place that can approve and build major projects
  • Funding, such as flow-through shares, to stimulate clean and emissions-reducing technology
  • Job-creating funding for decommissioning or orphan and inactive wells
  • Stimulus through accelerated infrastructure spending and funds to match Alberta’s new Blueprint for Jobs

“Even before the current fiscal crisis, our province has led the way in reaching out to other provinces to build a consensus on issues such as reforming the federal Fiscal Stabilization Program to provide an ‘Equalization Rebate,’ building pipelines and economic corridors to get our goods to global markets, opening up interprovincial free trade, and calling for regulatory certainty on permitting and approval for major projects. Now more than ever, we will continue to stand up for Alberta and make the case for these priorities in the interest of Albertans and all Canadians.”Jason Kenney, Premier

At the Council of the Federation meeting in December 2019, Canada’s premiers unilaterally supported Alberta’s call for retroactive reforms to the Fiscal Stabilization Program that remove unreasonable and outdated caps and provides Alberta with a retroactive payment of $2.4 billion that the government would use to get Albertans back to work. The Alberta delegation will continue to push for the federal government to adopt these changes, along with new actions from the provinces and the federal government to address the “perfect storm” of economic threats posed by COVID-19 and the Russia-Saudi oil price war. With or without Ottawa, the Government of Alberta will consider all options and take all necessary action to protect Alberta jobs and employers.

The First Ministers’ Meeting is on March 13.

Note: As the Prime Minister is in self-isolation today’s conference was held by telephone.

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