Business

Alberta energy minister confident federal help for oilpatch coming 'very shortly'

Sonya Savage says Alberta is working "very closely" with Ottawa as the federal government crafts a strategy for helping Canada's oilpatch, including a plan to address the sector's liquidity concerns.

'We're working very closely with them,' Sonya Savage tells energy symposium

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage says Alberta is working "very closely" with Ottawa as the federal government crafts a strategy for helping Canada's oilpatch, including a plan to address the sector's liquidity concerns. (Government of Alberta)

Alberta is working closely with Ottawa as the federal government crafts a strategy for helping the country's struggling oilpatch, says the province's energy minister, adding she's expecting a package to come "very shortly."

Sonya Savage, speaking to an online audience of investors and companies, also expressed faith that the package would include methods of helping the oilpatch with its financing challenges.

"I'm still confident that something's coming out very shortly," Savage said Tuesday morning to the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium.

"We're working very closely with them. And I'm not seeing anything at this point to be concerned that there's not a liquidity package coming."

When commodity prices are so low, oilpatch companies often struggle to obtain financing from banks, investors and the broader finance community.

Oil companies, drillers and service firms have been calling on the federal government to find some way to ensure there will be liquidity in the market during the current turmoil. 

The oilpatch is struggling because of three main factors: the decision by Saudi Arabia and Russia to flood the market with oil; problems with accessing funding from equity markets; and COVID-19, which has put the brakes on oil demand.

"Our finance minister, Travis Toews, has been in regular contact with [federal] Finance Minister Bill Morneau and our departments are working closely on what a liquidity package is going to look like," Savage said.

"I still believe that they're working very diligently on it, the federal government. These things take a bit of time. There's a number of option proposals before them on exactly how to get liquidity back into the sector."

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last month that aid for the oil sector was "hours, potentially days" away. But his department confirmed Tuesday there's still no timeline for its release, while noting that federal wage programs can be used by energy employees.

In an open letter on Monday, the Calgary-based oilfield services sector called for Ottawa to introduce a payroll relief plan and suggested it purchase their accounts receivable at a discount to give them instant cash flow to preserve jobs.

The letter signed by 13 CEOs said the federal government could collect those debts at a profit when the crisis is over.

The annual CAPP conference, held in Toronto for the past few years, is being presented as an online conference for the first time this year to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

With files from The Canadian Press