OTTAWA – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her province is buying enough new rail cars to ship another 120,000 barrels of oil a day, without the federal government’s help.
The premier was in Ottawa Wednesday to deliver a speech steps from Parliament. She said she’s disappointed the federal government hasn’t even officially responded to her request to help buy more rail cars to make up for a shortage of pipeline capacity.
“The federal government should be at the table on this,” she said. “There’s no excuse for their absence.”
While she continues to press Ottawa to step up, she isn’t going to wait for it. Alberta has already started talks with a third party to buy enough rail cars and locomotives to put two more oil trains a day on the tracks, she said. The details of exactly how many cars, who the negotiations are with and how much it will cost are being kept secret pending the outcome but Notley said the deal will be final within weeks.
“Alberta’s energy industry and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who depend on it deserve nothing less,” Notley said to a receptive audience at the Canadian Club, in a ballroom at the Chateau Laurier.
Earlier this week the federal government pledged to do everything it can to help Ontario auto workers being laid off next year when General Motors closes its Oshawa, Ont., factory. Notley said she does not begrudge Ontario that help but that Alberta has been in a crisis for months as oil prices sink lower and lower, largely due to transportation problems that are keeping producers from getting oil to buyers.
“The federal government needs to understand that this, too, is a crisis,” Notley said.
Notley said Alberta and federal officials are talking and she hopes to speak directly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about this next week when the premiers and Trudeau have a first-ministers’ meeting in Montreal.
The price for Alberta crude fell to about $10 a barrel Tuesday, said Notley, which is about $40 less than it should be getting when compared to other world oil prices, because buyers are less interested in a product that’s stuck in Canada’s interior. She said a year ago, Alberta was losing about $40 million a day because of that difference. Now, with the price of Canadian oil plunging in recent weeks, that differential has grown to $80 million a day.
Notley credited the federal government for buying the Trans Mountain pipeline in an effort to get it expanded and carry more Alberta oil to the B.C. coast, but she said that purchase hasn’t solved the problem yet. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned federal approvals for the project, citing insufficient consultation with Indigenous communities and a lack of attention to the impact on the marine environment off British Columbia.
Notley said Ottawa has an obligation to Albertans, and to Canadians, to step up and help find other solutions even as it tries to get the Trans Mountain project back on track.