TWO HILLS, Alberta – Last week, the Liberal government introduced their 2016 Budget, including temporary, targeted changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) system intended to help hard-hit regions of the country experiencing high unemployment. While this measure is a temporary fix and is not a concrete plan to create jobs and to grow the economy, Edmonton and surrounding areas, including Bruderheim, have been excluded.
“I think that both people in Edmonton and Saskatchewan should be pleased that they are not hit as hard as other parts of the country and indeed the province have been,” Prime Minister Trudeau said in an interview during his quick stop in Calgary on Tuesday.
Shannon Stubbs, Member of Parliament for Lakeland and the Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Natural Resources, stated her disappointment in the poorly-planned EI changes and the flippant attitude of the Prime Minister towards unemployed Albertans.
More than 100,000 people in the oil and gas sector lost their jobs by the end of 2015. In January of this year, Alberta lost 22,000 full time jobs. The unemployment rate in Alberta is 7.9%, higher than that of Quebec for the first time in nearly thirty years – the highest since the fallout from Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s National Energy Program. The rapidly escalating unemployment in a relatively short period of time is a crisis for Lakeland and for all of Alberta, and unemployed workers in and around Bruderheim are no exception.
“We know that rural Canada isn’t on this government’s radar, but suggesting unemployed workers should be pleased that they don’t have it worse is callous and short-sighted. Bruderheim is in the centre of the Industrial Heartland where so many residents have been directly impacted by the downturn in the energy sector,” said M.P. Stubbs. “People in Lakeland often tell me that they just want to get back to work, but if the government is going to make this support available to hard-hit regions, it makes no sense to exclude Bruderheim.”
M.P. Stubbs also expressed serious concern with the Liberal government’s detrimental approach to the Canadian energy sector that exacerbates job losses.
“The Liberal government’s failure to recognize Bruderheim as a town in the heart of a region hit the hardest by the energy downturn is symptomatic of a larger problem,” said M.P. Stubbs. “While proponents of energy projects try to create thousands of jobs, the Liberal government introduced increased layers and costs to the regulatory process and a moratorium on crude oil tankers on B.C.’s North Coast. They’ve hired anti-energy activists in key senior advisor roles and hob-knob with American anti-Canadian energy lobby groups. These actions undermine confidence in the energy sector, cause widespread uncertainty, and contribute directly to job losses at the very worst time.”
“Instead of increasing job losses being driven by the sustained drop in oil prices, this government needs to reduce red tape and fiscal burdens on the energy sector by advocating for diverse export markets and expediting the completion of critical energy infrastructure. The federal government needs to become strong proponents for Canada’s world-leading energy sector by consistently countering domestic and international mischaracterizations about the track record of sustainable, responsible energy development and regulation, for which Alberta is renowned.”
M.P. Stubbs said this situation epitomizes the problem with out-of-touch, top-down decision-making by politicians, political staff and public servants in Ottawa who are not familiar with local and regional realities.
Budget 2016 did not include natural resources and did not mention the oil and gas sector. In fact, contrary to their election promise to lower the small business tax rate, the government ignored small businesses in their budget. All of these actions escalate the domino impact of the job losses that are rippling through all sectors across Canada, and make things so much worse for the families, workers, businesses and communities who rely on energy and natural resources development, of which all Canadians can be very proud, and from which we all benefit.
“Bruderheim is exactly the kind of tenacious, self-sufficient, creative, and generous rural town I represent right across Lakeland that punches way above its weight economically, where the work of the residents there and the revenue they generate contribute to increasing the standard of living of every person in every community across Canada, and have done so for decades. It is not too much to ask that this temporary support be there now for people in Bruderheim, when they need it more than ever,” M.P. Stubbs said.