Federal budget shows Alberta's oil and gas sector not a priority, industry group says

The oil and gas industry's main lobby group says the federal government’s 2019 budget does nothing to get people back to work or spur investment in Alberta’s key industry.

CAPP says Ottawa's spending plan lacks measures to spur investment in struggling industry

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, a day after he delivered the federal budget. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The oil and gas industry's main lobby group says the federal government's 2019 budget does nothing to get people back to work or spur investment in Alberta's key industry.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) says the federal budget sends a message that oil and gas jobs are not a priority.

Ben Brunnen, CAPP's vice-president of oilsands, says he hoped there would be new measures to attract capital investment.

"They're recognizing that the investment levels are down, they're recognizing that prices are down and that unemployment is up, and yet they're not really taking any meaningful action to support our industry," he said.

"The reality is, when we see those indicators all facing down, from an oil and gas perspective, and no recognition from the government of a willingness to support our industry, it's a pretty strong message towards our industry that we're not a priority for this government, and that's disappointing."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's budget does include a few new initiatives aimed at helping Canadians who find themselves needing to make a career change.

New training benefit

The budget introduces a new, non-taxable Canada Training Benefit designed to help Canadians plan and pay for skills training. It includes a benefit with income supports covering the worker's training period.

Ottawa's spending plan does address unemployment by providing an annual tax break and supports for people retraining or upgrading their skills.

People who take time off work to train or upgrade will be eligible for income support through Employment Insurance.

And there will be a credit of $250 a year, up to $5,000 over a lifetime, for job retraining — an issue that's especially relevant in Calgary, where the unemployment rate remains very high following the recession.

Randy Upright with ManPower, a staffing and recruitment firm, says they hear from people every day who are trying to get out of the oil and gas industry.

"Historically, it's been difficult for people to take the time to up-skill or re-skill. Although today we have many people looking for work, at the same time we have many tough-to-fill roles. So we're sitting right now in Calgary with a definite skills gap," he said.

Upright says many of his clients are trying to transition out of the energy sector, a move that can be quite a challenge.

"Right now, we are doing a lot of work with tech and skilled trades. We are finding that there are people who are realizing there are gaps on their resume from what their experience was to what they are now finding is required for the jobs of tomorrow," he said.

WATCH | Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos and economist Rebekah Young take your questions about the budget:

With files from Elissa Carpenter