By Trevor Busch
Few provinces in Canada have felt the impact of a collapse in oil and gas prices like Alberta, and the sheer scale of the job losses in the energy sector has been virtually unprecedented as the province moves into 2017.
During a debate on the subject in the House of Commons on Feb. 8, Bow River MP Martin Shields advocated for a policy-driven approach to tacking the problem.
“I think policies are what we are looking for. It is not just about Alberta. We have had tremendous support from premiers in the prairie provinces who
have fought for the energy sector, such as Lougheed, Klein, and, most recently, Wall. They understood leadership. They stood up for it. People
Strong political leadership is key for meaningful investment, continued Shields.
“That is one of the things that drives investment. We are looking for investment. That creates jobs. The government does not create jobs. If we are the best drawers of water and hewers of wood, there is nothing wrong with that. Actually, we are the best in the world at it, so let us keep developing that. I do not like hearing that it is a bad thing, because it is a good thing. We are good at it. We have tremendous industries. Let us
not take away from them.”
In response to this statement, Niki Ashton, MP for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, took exception.
“Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is okay to be known as hewers of wood and drawers of water. We should have jobs that depend on processing the wealth that is in our territories and provinces, working with First Nations. We can create wealth based on processing the raw materials that our country is so wealthy in. The fact remains that these are some of the best-paying jobs in our communities, whether in refineries or smelters. We need to stand up for value-added jobs. As I mentioned, this Liberal government has not. The previous Conservative government did not. The fact of the matter is that we are bleeding good jobs that are entirely related to the wealth our country has, and that is a crying shame. Canadians, Canadian workers, want their federal government to work with them to protect these value-added jobs.”