It may have been a gaffe, but it caught the attention of a few in the back of the room, during a lunch hour speech from Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.
She was addressing a full room during a meeting of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration at the Calgary Petroleum Club.
Her speech touched on it being tough times for the energy industry and what they were doing to respond to the record low price of oil.
The long-time advocate of the energy sector admitted she had never seen an economic climate like the one the province is dealing with now.
“We have to get those pipelines built,” she told the audience, referring to finding a coastline to the east or west of Alberta.
The Energy Minister made no mention, though, of the proposed pipeline south of us, otherwise known as TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
But it was a question she responded to during the question and answer session that raised more than a few eyebrows.
“I have another question on job, job losses again, what is the provincial government doing to assist in re-training opportunities for people who are now out of work, may not be able to return to their jobs in oil and gas but keeping them in oil and gas, when we’re ready… when oil prices go back up?” asked the moderator.
“I think one of the options certainly is like in the post-secondary system. A lot of people if they do have that journeyman certificate are finding work but I know I have to say up our way, I know of people who maybe disrupted their training part way through because times were hot and they could get a pretty good job without having that journeyman certificate. So we’re creating opportunities to go back and finish that work now or maybe go into another sector within that and encouraging those folks, that’s one option for them. Looking at providing training and skill development so we don’t lose people. Certainly there are always talks of about mobility of jobs between provinces so maybe they can go work in BC until it gets better and come back home, there’s things like that, that’s always been kind of ongoing but I think the training part is really important and that’s one we’re pushing,” said McCuaig-Boyd.
Scoffs could be heard at the back of the room, as she suggested those laid-off should head to British Columbia.
Later in clarifying her remarks to 660 NEWS, the Minister explained she was referring to those journeymen with a “red seal endorsement.”
The Minister said there are projects on both sides of the border.
“There are also layoffs on both sides,” she explained. “The oil prices have affected everybody. There may not be the opportunities to move to other provinces.”
McCuaig-Boyd said B.C. should not be seen or perceived as a safety valve, but she did concede they need to do more to help the industry hold onto its skilled trades people.
“Like up in our way, I’m an hour and a half from the B.C. border and there’s projects that span both sides. So I guess that would be one, if there isn’t a job right now in Alberta maybe they can work close in B.C. but still be kind close to home,” she said.
She told 660 NEWS and the Calgary Herald, companies are concerned about keeping skilled, trained workers here and that’s a challenge for everyone.
McCuaig-Boyd plans on talking to her fellow Ministers; she admits, right now, their focus is solely on training those affected workers.
“That’s something we need to look at, how can we assist industry in that but there’s no firm plans right now in that.” she replied.
She was then asked, if some might perceive that the government is seeing their neighbours to the west as a “safety-valve”.
“Oh no, no, no, I meant you can be mobile and work back and forth if you’re in the trades. I was thinking you know more up our way, where there’s plays where the Duvernay doesn’t know if it’s in BC or Alberta, or the Montigny, there’s companies working both sides of the border but it’s a project. I was just thinking more, you know in my area, it’s possible to live in Alberta still and work in BC.” the Minister replied.
“It’s a tough time for everybody, not just oil and gas, there’s lot of jobs being lost in the services sector. In one of my speeches, I’ve mentioned a gal I did some work for, she has a salon and even with just less disposable income, she’s losing more than a mortgage payment a month in just lost business, so if affects everyone here. I look at the hotel in my town, you can tell how health the industry is by how many service trucks there are out there, so this oil price is hurting a lot of Albertans, so you just have to hunker down and get through it.”
Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd full speech:
Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd clarification: