Saskatchewan

Oil price plunge will not be factored into upcoming Sask. budget

Saskatchewan's budget is scheduled to be released in nine days, but the numbers inside won't reflect Monday's dramatic plunge in oil prices.

Western Canadian Select price drops to $20 US per barrel

On Sunday evening, Saudi Arabia kicked off an all-out price war in the oil market, announcing it would be removing any production caps. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan's budget is scheduled to be released in nine days, but the numbers inside won't reflect Monday's dramatic plunge in oil prices.

Last week, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the government finalized the numbers for this year's budget on February 28. The budget is slated to be announced on March 18.

On Sunday evening, Saudi Arabia kicked off an all-out price war in the oil market, announcing it would be removing any production caps. That move sent the price of crude tumbling more than 25 per cent and came on top of existing fears over the coronavirus currently spreading around the world.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell as low as $27.38 US a barrel before rallying to $32 by noon MT. The international benchmark Brent fell $12 to $33.20 US on Monday morning. 

Western Canadian Select had plummeted and was sitting at $20.69 US a barrel around noon MT on Monday. 

It was the largest single-day drop since the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991.

"We're obviously watching this, we're monitoring this, it is of a concern," said Saskatchewan's Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre.

Saskatchewan's 2019-20 budget forecasted oil at $59.75 US per barrel. In recent years, the provincial government has shifted away from heavy reliance on revenues from non-renewable resources.

"The oil and gas sector still plays an important role in our GDP and is a very crucial sector for us. So of course it's of significance when we see this happening today," Eyre said.

On Monday Alberta NDP opposition Leader Rachel Notley called on the provincial government to revise its budget which was released in February.

"The budget is absolutely meaningless," Notley said.

The group that represents Canadian oil and gas companies said the industry has withstood challenges in the past.

"We're not in the situation where we were five years ago when we have very high prices and high-cost structures. We've been on a diet for quite a while," said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Vice-President of Western Canada Operations Brad Herald. 

"We have an incredibly resilient sector in Canada and we will ride through these challenges."

Markets briefly suspended in Canada and U.S.

North American stock markets briefly halted shortly after opening Monday.

Canadian energy companies felt the impact early Monday. Suncor had lost more than 25 per cent of its value and Cenovus was down by almost half.

The TSX lost more than 1,400 points, or eight per cent, within minutes of opening, so the Canadian index's circuit breaker was triggered. When it reopened, at one point, it was down as much as 1,600 points, or more than 10 per cent. That's the worst day for the TSX since 1987.

Stock markets were shut down on Monday as panic selling settled in. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

"This is basically panic selling," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital in New York. "There's a lot of fear in the market and … it's an indication that a global recession is not far away."

Wall Street's so-called "fear index," known as the VIX, which spikes during times of volatility, jumped by 14 points to 56.61. That's its highest level since 2009, during the financial crisis.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC's Sarah Rieger and Pete Evans

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