CALGARY—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promises of fast-tracked infrastructure spending and employment insurance reform in Alberta have received a lukewarm reception among some oilpatch workers.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket of the billions that we’ve sent out east,” said pipeline contractor Chad Miller, 35, of $700 million to come for construction projects and another $250 million for Alberta from a federal fiscal stabilization fund.
Miller had been hoping to see some help for small-business owners and contractors and doesn’t see the infrastructure cash, or the promises of EI reform, helping him as he struggles to find work.
“I’m a small-business owner., I don’t pay into it, so them extending EI benefits is great for these employees, they need it, but what about the small entrepreneurs? That’s what Alberta’s driving on.”
Chase Scoville, 19, of Red Deer, said the money is a good start, but he worries about how it will be spent.
“That’s a lot of money, of course,” said Scoville. “I just hope it doesn’t get spent too fast on the wrong things.”
He said EI reforms wouldn’t help him either since he’s still working to find an apprenticeship, but he thought Trudeau showed concern for what’s happening in the province.
“I do think he has quite a bit of concern about what’s going on over here, because he does realize how much Alberta means to Canadian resources and … how much Alberta puts out in Canada’s GDP every year.”
But he said he wasn’t confident Trudeau would push through pipeline approvals.
“I hope that it happens, but I just think it’s one of his backburner things.”
Jason Lawrence, 35, a pipefitter from Calgary, said he was frustrated with Trudeau’s noncommittal answer after being asked point-blank about supporting the Energy East pipeline. He would have liked to see the government take a clear stand either way.
“You can’t please everybody,” said Lawrence. “As soon as the government can make a decision, then investors can decide what they’re going to do. But right now it’s a whole lot of living in limbo.”
He said investor certainty is going to help the oil and gas sector, not infrastructure spending.
“This isn’t a problem that you’re going to solve by throwing money at it. The oilpatch has all kinds of money and if they were going to invest in this industry, they’d be doing it. There’s just not enough investor confidence right now.”