'Struggling' Alberta looking to federal budget for help

The Alberta government is looking to this afternoon's federal budget to support infrastructure projects, clean water for First Nations communities and the struggling oil and gas industry.

'We need some support,' premier says on eve of Trudeau government's 2017 budget

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November after the Trudeau government approved two pipelines. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Alberta government is looking to this afternoon's federal budget to support infrastructure projects, clean water for First Nations communities and the struggling oil and gas industry.

Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will table the budget in the House of Commons at 2 p.m. Alberta time (4 p.m. ET.)

"Alberta is struggling, and we need some support, particularly in our oil and gas sector," Premier Rachel Notley told reporters Tuesday.

Notley didn't elaborate on what kind of help she is seeking, but added she anticipates seeing progress on infrastructure funding at both the provincial and municipal level.

She said  Alberta has made several representations to the federal government to make its case.

Rules for foreign investment

The Canada West Foundation said the energy sector needs to see the federal budget address issues around certainty and competitiveness.

"With all the uncertainty in the United States, and a desire to pivot to Asia, there's the desire to clarify our foreign investment rules," said Trevor McLeod, director of the foundation's natural resource centre,
Trevor McLeod, with the Canada West Foundation, says the energy sector will be looking for indications of certainty in the federal budget. (supplied)

Under then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2010, the federal cabinet put the brakes on an attempted $38.6 billion US hostile takeover of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan by Australian based BHP Billiton.

McLeod said Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has maintained that system which allows for "political flexibility," but fails to provide certainty for state-owned enterprises if they want to invest in the oilsands.

"China has indicated very clearly they want some clarity on those rules and if we are going to actually court China, then we'll have to provide something there."

There's also a need, McLeod said, for the federal budget to reflect a continued commitment to the building of new pipelines — the Trans Mountain expansion between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., and the Line 3 expansion project between Hardisty, Alta., and Gretna, Man., near the Canada-U.S. border.

Trudeau gave both pipelines the go-ahead in late November.

"I think most people are leaning towards the belief they in fact will be built," McLeod said.

He's looking for a mention or signal in the budget that "Trudeau is willing to stand up and do what he said he would do to make sure pipelines get built."

Clean water for reserves

Richard Feehan, Alberta's Indigenous relations minister, said he's hoping to see an indication the federal government is willing to help improve water safety conditions in First Nations communities.

In last week's Alberta budget, $100 million was committed to extend municipal water systems to the borders of reserves.
Richard Feehan hopes to see money for projects to improve water quality in First Nations communities. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC News )

"Once it gets to the edge of the reserve, we have to count on the federal government to attach to that and then to bring it into the community and connect all the public buildings," said Feehan.

Thirteen Alberta First Nations communities are on boil-water advisories, Feehan said. He added that the number can fluctuate based on systems and conditions.

Alberta released its new budget last week, with projections the debt is expected to rise to $45 billion in the coming year, and to hit $71.1 billion by 2019-20.

A bump in natural resource revenue caused a slight drop in the deficit at $10.3 billion, half a billion less than last year's budget deficit.