February 22, 2021

We need to get Canada working again

On Feb. 22 I had the chance to give a speech in the virtual House of Commons where I called out the Justin Trudeau Liberal government on their poor record on standing up for our energy industry and for their failure to get enough vaccines purchased and delivered to Canadians. 

Madam Speaker, from coast to coast to coast Canadians are struggling. They are struggling both with a pandemic that has cost far too many people their lives and with an economy in deep trouble. These two crises have hit working Canadians very hard. Lives and livelihoods have been lost. Despite this all, Canadians are persevering, as we know they can. Through adversity, they are getting the job done. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Liberal government.

The most important role the feds have is to procure vaccines and, sadly, they are failing. Canada is falling behind scores of countries in getting COVID-19 vaccines. We are standing north of 50. There are probably 50 countries ahead of us for vaccine procurement and its use. Israel has vaccinated about 80% of its population and the United Kingdom more than 25%. The United States has vaccinated more than 17%. In fact, I saw a statistic the other day that said there were more people vaccinated in the United States in just one day than there has been in Canada, period. Canada is looking at a vaccination rate of about 3.60%, according to Bloomberg News. We are behind Greece, Chile, Morocco, Portugal, the Maldives, Serbia and many other countries.

For everyday Canadians, failure to procure vaccines will mean Canadians will continue to be at risk and be under lockdown and the lockdown will take place for a longer time. These lockdowns have real-world consequences. I recently called a friend at a seniors facility near Toronto. He is forbidden from leaving his room. He told me it feels like he is in a jail cell.

Obviously, without enough people vaccinated, we will also be late to reopen our economy. While scores of other countries will reopen, we will still be locked down, with our businesses shuttered, and that is a true tragedy. This failure will have a significant impact on jobs and Canadian businesses. It certainly already has.

Being left behind is the last thing that struggling Canadians need and workers are in a very dark place. It is especially true in my home province of Alberta. In addition to facing the pandemic and its economic consequences, Albertans are facing a federal government hostile to its number one industry, an industry that creates thousands of good-paying jobs right across Canada. That is what I think a lot of Canadians really should realize: The oil and gas industry is not all about Alberta; it is about all of Canada. It is a vital industry to Canada.

During the 2009 global recession, it was the energy industry that helped Canada weather the storm. Because of the energy industry, Canada had the strongest economy in the G7 through that global recession, but the Liberal government has squandered that national asset. Through the government and hostile legislation, it has attacked the golden goose that laid the golden egg. Take, for example, the Liberal government’s recent lacklustre response to the Americans scrapping the Keystone XL pipeline.

Back in June 2018, the United States, under former president Donald Trump, placed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. Canada quickly responded with measures of its own. Canada took action to protect its vital economic interest. It did that despite that, at the time, we knew that it was a campaign promise by then President Trump. Back then, the foreign affairs minister at the time said, “the United States has taken the absurd decision to harm its own people at a time when its economy is suffering”. That was a reasonable approach and we need that same reasonable approach with Keystone XL for Canada’s largest export industry.

In 2019, our energy exports were valued at more than $134 billion. Let that sink in for a bit. Think what that money could buy. Think how much worse we will be when we do not have that money. Instead, Canada’s current foreign minister said that we should understand and respect the decision on Keystone XL. The Prime Minister only said he was disappointed. That is not the type of response they gave when manufacturers were under threat from tariffs during NAFTA renegotiations. Why is the energy industry treated differently?

During the NAFTA renegotiations, we took a team Canada approach in defence of Canada’s vital national interests. Canadian government officials and politicians, including myself, went to Washington and lobbied key American stakeholders. We talked to Democrats, Republicans and everyone we could talk to, yet today when another vital industry is under threat, all we hear are crickets from the Liberal government. We have actually heard more from American politicians and union officials in support of Keystone XL than from our own government.

 On January 21, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said:

The teamsters strongly oppose yesterday’s decision and we would urge the administration to reconsider it. This executive order doesn’t just affect us teamsters, it hurts our Canadian brothers and sisters as well who work on this project. It will reduce good-paying union jobs, allow workers to provide a middle-class standard of living for their families. America needs access to various forms of energy. It can see its economy running in the years ahead and keep it running. This decision will hurt that effort.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas called out the Biden administration cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline saying:

“The Biden administration is already killing jobs in Arkansas in the middle of a pandemic to appease far left environmental groups. This isn’t what America needs right now.”

This is a vital Canadian interest. Where is Canada’s response? This lack of leadership has real world impact. Recently, the Calgary Herald ran a story about Muhammad Ali who has the same name as a famous boxer. Muhammad is a proud Calgarian, as he should be. Calgary is a fantastic city. It is the second biggest city in Alberta, second best actually. He is currently finishing his business degree at the University of Calgary where he is majoring in supply management. Muhammad hoped once he graduated he would be able to find a career in the energy industry in Alberta, but now he is forced to leave the province for the U.S.A. He said, “I would have really loved to have stayed in Alberta, especially Calgary, it’s a really great place to live and I was looking forward to maybe working in the energy industry here. Unfortunately, those hopes have been dashed.”

As Muhammad put it, there just seems to be so much more opportunity for him in the U.S. Now Muhammad is just one of many young western Canadians who are finding their career prospects leading them south of the border. Despite having the one of the largest oil deposits in the world, the neglect and outright hostility the Liberal government has shown to our energy industry, it has seen its investment and jobs go elsewhere. At a time when it is essential to begin the process to rebuild our economy, seeing stories like Muhammad’s is really, really disappointing. I wish him all the best. He seems like a talented and hard-working young man and I am sure he is going to be a real asset wherever he goes.

However, the fact that he must leave, despite wanting to stay, is a huge loss to our communities. Last year we have seen the largest deficit in Canadian history of $331 billion. We are going to need the skills and hard work of people like Muhammad here in Canada to help us pay off the enormous debt the Liberals have racked up. That is why we need the federal government to end its hostility to the energy industry, Canada’s golden goose. Stop exporting good Canadians jobs and facilitate the export of Canadian energy. We need to get Canada working.