Mr. Speaker, it has become clear that the Liberals are using the pandemic to shut down accountability and transparency, potentially to usher in big government dependency, while targeted support is not actually getting to Canadians who desperately need it.
In over five years, no province has borne the brunt of the Liberals' divisive, anti-business, anti-energy, anti-resource policies more than Alberta. The Liberals outright campaigned against Albertans and the oil and gas in 2019. Now the government is using COVID-19 to finish what it started, the destruction of Canadian oil and gas. What is crazy is that the finance minister and the natural resources minister keep acknowledging how bad it is for Canadian oil and gas now that the OPEC cartel has dropped prices, disproportionately harming Canadian energy. While demand has declined due to the pandemic, with no plan to go forward for Canadian energy, and the programs they have promised to help are complete failures, Albertans can be forgiven for concluding that the lack of support is by design or intentional.
Eighty-five days after the finance minister promised help in “hours or days”, the specific help for small and medium-sized oil and gas companies has never actually happened, but just got merged into a generic mid-sized loan program. However, a medium-sized company needs $100 million in annual revenue to qualify for the program. I guess the Liberals have a different definition of a medium-sized business than the rest of us do, or are completely oblivious to the damage in the sector so far. Even if a company does qualify, the interest rate is higher than that of the banks.
The large employer program has interest rates that rise to 15% by year five, which are payday loan rates, not emergency assistance. Furthermore, the small business loan amounts are too small for oil and gas suppliers, and when drillers face one or two years of zero revenue, short-term and fixed loans are really of no use.
The $1.7 billion for orphaned wells is a drop in the bucket meant to create 5,000 jobs for a sector that has lost more than 200,000 jobs since 2015 and 20,000 since the pandemic started, with no end in sight. Orphaned wells have increased by 300% since 2015, precisely because of Liberal policies that have bankrupted operators.
The Liberals put the big banks in charge of applying for most of the BDC and EDC COVID programs, but banks are refusing because of the risk-sharing provisions, or to avoid doing work with a program from which they will not profit.
The reality is that Liberal ministers have been told all of this directly, repeatedly, privately and publicly, so their lack of action seems intentional and malicious. These Liberals are either oblivious or do not care about the damage they are doing to the fabric of our country, giving billions of Canadian tax dollars to their elite cronies and entitled, connected buddies, or benefiting Liberal friends or families, while everyday Canadians are struggling.
On a personal note, let me say that it is incredibly sad that as their federal representative, often the first thing I hear my constituents say to me these days is that it is time for Alberta to leave Canada. It is not just that of a vocal minority, but a growing view in Lakeland, and I believe it is my duty to express the scale and scope of that frustration and anger. People are not just talking about the concept, but about the mechanics, which should be particularly troubling given the unprecedented health, fiscal and economic crisis Alberta faces now. I guess it does not make the news because we are from a rural area or the Prairies, which is easy to ignore in Ottawa, but these Liberals have destroyed the faith of many Albertans in the federal government to the extent they have given up on the idea of Canada. That should shake every person in this chamber and everyone listening. It did not happen overnight, but it accumulated after five years of targeted attacks on Lakeland and Alberta, on federal jobs in my riding, on the oil and gas sector, on rural communities, on farmers and farm families. Cutting so many Albertans out of COVID-19 emergency supports is only the latest example.
From day one, the Liberals have gone out of their way to destroy livelihoods in Lakeland and Alberta, ignoring hundreds of thousands of job losses, spikes in bankruptcies, suicides and family breakdowns. They are sacrificing families and the future of their children for ideology and partisan gain.
There is a serious agricultural emergency in Lakeland after an early snow trapped crops in the field last fall. This year's spring harvest was followed by excessive rains that flooded fields, prevented seeding or drowned crops, wiping out farm incomes for a third straight year. Liberal-caused uncertainty in export markets and the pandemic made things even more complicated for all producers. To make matters worse, the Liberals hiked their carbon tax by 50% on April 1, right in the middle of the pandemic, increasing costs for farmers who did manage to get their crops off the field and making literally everything more expensive in every sector of agriculture.
Of course, no industry has endured the single-minded sabotage and vilification of the Liberal government like oil and gas. The Prime Minister tells the world he wants to phase out Canada's most valuable export and largest private sector investor in the economy. The Liberals blocked, delayed and cancelled infrastructure for Canadian oil and gas, not for the benefit of the planet, because Canadian oil and gas is the most socially and environmentally responsible in the world, but in order to burnish the Prime Minister's celebrity status in the global jet-setting United Nations crowd. It makes no sense.
Developing all of Canada's resources and exporting Canadian natural gas will do far more to address global environmental challenges than anything the Liberals have imposed on Canada, and in particular on the prairies.
After the 2019 election, Liberal campaigners admitted they vilified the oil and gas sector. They put their electoral gain ahead of the country. Clearly, the Prime Minister has learned from his father's campaign tactics. As Pierre Trudeau's strategist said when justifying the pillaging of Alberta's earnings, “Screw the West, we'll take the rest.”
Liberal cabinet ministers and Liberal MPs actively campaign against opportunities for Albertans that would benefit all of Canada, such as the Teck Frontier project, and have supported funding pipeline protesters and petitioned against oil and gas projects that would benefit Alberta and all of Canada. It has created an inherent animosity that goes even beyond changing this Prime Minister and this government.
The Liberals and the establishment's ambivalence to the thousands of mom-and-pop oil and gas suppliers shutting down in western Canada in real time, the lack of long-term assistance measures, the domino effect for financial support for producers to get drilling started again have been heard loud and clear in Lakeland, make no mistake.
For the first time since 1965, Alberta will receive more money from the federal government in 2020 than it sends. For 55 continuous years, wealth generated by Alberta strengthened the rest of Canada. The NEP in the 1980s under Pierre Trudeau took the most, at over $30 billion a year, which has since declined, but since 2005, Alberta contributed more than $20 billion a year than it received, which is more than any other province. Structural changes are needed to make Canada work for Alberta and to level the playing field. It would be good for all of Canada to value all of the regions in our country.
The Liberals are using COVID-19 as a so-called opportunity to re-engineer Canada's economy in ways that will further alienate and impoverish the west, and they are supported by their allies on the left.
Alberta punches above its weight in Canada. It is not an accident of geography or natural resources or demographics. It is not a coincidence. It is because generations of Albertans and Albertans by choice created an advantage by combining hard work, innovation, personal responsibility and free-market principles and policies to create private sector opportunities and a growing economy that attracted the best, the brightest and the youngest from all across Canada and the world to work and raise their families. It is free markets and free enterprise policies that propelled Alberta's economy to create nine out of every 10 new full-time jobs in Canada as recently as 2014 and to be a net contributor to Canada continuously for more than half a century.
The worst damage has always been done by federal intrusions into Alberta's natural resources policy, such as the NEP and now the dismantling of oil and gas through bills like Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, the blocking of pipelines, other regulations and roadblocks, barriers to exploration and to drilling, the carbon tax and now the failure of COVID support programs. Other provinces and regions have similar natural resource assets and opportunities, but they have not taken the same approach. It was the private sector and Alberta's entrepreneurial risk-taking innovation, combined with positive federal and provincial fiscal policies, that unlocked remarkable opportunities in Alberta for all of Canada.
After the 2015 election, in my first words in the House of Commons, I said, “A strong Alberta means a strong Canada.” It is really a tragedy for my riding and for our country that the Liberals have done everything they can to undermine that reality. On election night, the Prime Minister said he heard Alberta and that he would do better. He has not. My constituents are watching everything they built for generations collapse in front of them, and the federal government keeps asking them to sacrifice more by accepting one more review, one more regulation and one more tax. It is suffocating Lakeland, and because of Alberta's outside contribution to Canada, it will suffocate Canada's economic recovery.
The perspective that Canada does not work for Alberta is unfortunately pervasive in Lakeland. As elected representatives, we owe a duty of more than platitudes about our positions on industries, laws and taxes, more than politics for personal and partisan gain. This is obvious to freedom-loving Albertans and Albertans by choice. In Lakeland, it is a self-evident truth that the status quo is neither acceptable nor sustainable.
If anything I have said in the chamber today makes colleagues angry or uncomfortable, I hope it weighs on them. I hope it keeps them up at night, like it does me. I hope they stop enabling and helping the most corrupt, entitled and out-of-touch Prime Minister, who is doing all this damage to our country.