Connect with us

Alberta

Alta. oilpatch recruiting in Maritimes again as drilling set to rise in 2022

Published

6 minute read

CALGARY — After seven years of layoffs and hard times, employers in Alberta’s oilpatch are once again flush with cash and out to lure workers from the Maritimes and other parts of Eastern Canada.

The Canadian Association of Energy Contractors (CAOEC) said Tuesday it is expecting 6,457 oil and gas wells to be drilled in 2022, a more than 25 per cent increase from 2021.

“This is the good news story that we’ve been waiting for for seven years,” Mark Scholz, CAOEC president and chief executive, told reporters at an industry event in Calgary. “This is the first time in a very, very long time that many of our small businesses — who really quite frankly have been on the edge of insolvency and bankruptcy — (are receiving) that message of hope that many people have been waiting for.”

Global prices for natural gas and oil are higher than they’ve been since 2014, the last boom year for Alberta before a price collapse caused widespread bankruptcies and layoffs in the energy sector and plunged the province into recession.

While drilling activity next year isn’t expected to reach 2014 heights, strong commodity prices combined with progress on export capacity projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Coastal GasLink means the industry is feeling optimistic for the first time in many years. The CAOEC expects increased drilling activity in 2022 to create 35,000 new jobs in Western Canada, an increase of 7,200 jobs year-over-year.

With that increased activity comes a return to something Alberta has traditionally been good at — recruiting eastern Canadians with the lure of vacant jobs and large paycheques. Scholz said a significant portion of the sector’s workforce historically came from Newfoundland, the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec, but many of those workers returned home in recent years due to a shortage of jobs as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the push is on to get those people back. The CAOEC says a potential skilled labour shortage is the “biggest risk” standing in the way of long-term industry recovery, and Scholz said companies will need to carefully manage their capacity.

“Companies are beginning to reach out to some other jurisdictions, like the Maritimes and Quebec and Ontario, where we have traditionally advertised for skilled labour to come out to Western Canada to work,” Scholz said. “We’re starting to see that historical outreach … But there is going to be a lag in our ability to relocate people back.”

Scholz said wages in the oilpatch are already up 10 per cent year-over-year, but it will take more than money to lure eastern Canadians back to Alberta. He said many former rig workers are reluctant to return to their old industry until they know the current recovery will be a sustained one.

“It’s just going to take some time to get that confidence back in the workforce,” he said.

Long-term, the traditionally 24-hour-a-day, hard-charging oil and gas industry may also have to make some concessions to millennials and members of generation Z, Scholz said.

“What we’re starting to see is a younger workforce that has a value system of greater time off with friends and family and a work-life balance,” he said. “I think what we’re starting to see is the workforce is starting to position the industry in a different type of operating fashion than it has in the past.”

Scholz cautioned that while there is optimism in the industry, Alberta’s oil and gas sector has undergone a sea change since 2014. After seven years of downturn, the priority for many companies is now paying down debt and fiscal discipline, he said.

“I think we need to temper the expectations of what we have traditionally seen in years past, the oil and gas booms of yesteryear. I think it is a reality that the market, although it is responding to those signals, is going to continue to be very disciplined, very focused and targeted in how that capital is allocated.”

Tim McMillan, president and chief executive of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said Tuesday he views the latest forecast from the drilling and services sector as “encouraging for everybody.”

“We are seeing more activity,” McMillan said. “It’s potentially less than we would have seen at this point in the cycle eight to 10 years ago, but it gives us a solid platform to build on.”

“We might be heading into a period we haven’t experienced for some time, which is a labour shortage,” said Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada. “We’re just not sure how that’s going to play out, but I see it as a potential issue we may have to address.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

Follow Author

Alberta

Cheese not on the table in Canada-U.K. trade talks as Britain seeks market access

Published on

OTTAWA — The British foreign secretary has often been mocked for her preoccupation with cheese. It started eight years ago when Liz Truss expressed outrage in a speech to her party’s annual conference. 

“We import two thirds of our cheese,” she raged. “That is a disgrace.”

Now Truss is facing another battle over cheese, this time with Canada. 

Britain wants greater access to Canadian markets for more than 700 varieties of cheese including Stilton, Cheshire, and Wensleydale, a crumbly variety originating from Yorkshire. 

But Ottawa has made it clear it does not want to see more British cheddar, let alone artisan varieties such as stinking bishop, renegade monk and Hereford hop, on Canadian fridge shelves. 

During the first round of negotiations of the U.K.-Canada trade deal, Canada told Britain that a larger quota for British cheese is not on the negotiating table.

When it was a European Union member, Britain was part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada, giving it some access to Canada’s cheese market. 

After the U.K. left the EU, a “continuity agreement” with Canada was swiftly put in place to maintain the CETA arrangement until a bilateral trade deal could be struck. 

Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K., said if Britain wants more access to Canadian markets for its cheese as part of a bilateral free-trade agreement, it will have to knock on Brussels’ door and get its part of the dairy quota back. 

“The point is we have already provided that volume in the EU deal and the British left it there without taking it with them,” he said in an interview. “That’s an issue they need to resolve with the Europeans because the Europeans have their quota.” 

Goodale said the U.K.’s request for extra access for British cheese — on top of the access given to the EU — is “what the Canadian negotiators consider to be pretty much a dead end.”

“You are talking about a double concession — one we have already made to the EU and the request is being made by the U.K. for yet another one on top of that,” he said. 

The high commissioner said Canada values its trading relationship with the U.K., adding that he is confident that a mutually-beneficial trade deal will be reached.

But if Canada allows the British to export more of their cheese it would involve “a major commitment of compensation to dairy producers” in Canada to make up for lost incomes.  

In 2018, after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement gave the U.S. fresh access to the Canadian dairy market, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would compensate Canadian dairy farmers.

Canada’s dairy industry was worth over $7 billion in 2020, according to the Canadian Dairy Commission’s annual report. 

There are over 10,000 dairy farms in Canada — most of them in Quebec and Ontario — with an average of 92 cows per farm, it said. 

Until at least the end of next year, Britain will be able to keep exporting its cheese to Canada under the trade continuity agreement, the U.K.’s trade department said. 

This allows U.K. cheese exporters to access the Canadian market tariff-free under the EU portion of Canada’s World Trade Organization cheese tariff rate quota. 

As part of the 1995 WTO agreement on agriculture, Canada established tariff rate quotas for cheese and other dairy products. The quotas set out quantities of dairy that could enter Canada with little or no duty. 

For Britain, a fully fledged free trade deal with Canada is crucial after Brexit left it looking for fresh tariff-free markets.

“We want to negotiate an ambitious and comprehensive new agreement with Canada that will strengthen our close and historic bilateral trade relationship,” said a U.K. government trade spokesman in a statement, adding the relationship was worth about $34.5 billion in 2021.

In March, U.K. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan flew to Canada to announce with Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng that bilateral negotiations had officially begun. 

In a speech in the House of Lords in London earlier this month, Goodale reported on progress in the talks, saying that “both sides are optimistic that, as good as CETA and the continuity agreement were, we can do better still when Canada and the U.K. negotiate a deal face-to-face, directly with each other.” 

Like Goodale, Ng said Canada is confident a free-trade deal with Britain will be reached, enhancing co-operation in a number of areas, including on renewables, sustainability and the digital economy.  

“Canada values the relationship with the United Kingdom. They are … an important trading partner and a trade agreement with the U.K. will be very good for Canadian businesses,” she said in a phone interview from Thailand last weekend.

But she was also firm about the need to protect Canada’s dairy producers, and that means keeping more British cheese out. 

“I have been very clear, our government has been very clear, that we will not provide access to our supply-managed sector,” she said. “We have been clear about that from the get-go.” 

The Canadian dairy sector now produces 1,450 varieties of cheese, including ewe, goat and buffalo varieties, as well as the cheese curds used in the Québécois dish poutine.

At least half of Canada’s cheese is made in Quebec, which is home to a number of artisan varieties including bleu l’ermite, or blue hermit, and Oka, a popular semi-soft rind cheese.

Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, has made it clear he will fiercely protect Canadian cheese from British interlopers.

Lampron said he had “validated that the issue of access to the Canadian dairy market was not on the agenda of these trade talks.”

Canada’s protectionist stance toward its dairy industry may have pleased farmers. But it has caused some tension with close allies. 

Earlier this month, New Zealand launched a formal trade dispute against Canada, accusing the federal government of breaking promises to give access for dairy imports under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The Biden administration also recently said it was asking for a second dispute settlement panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to review a trade dispute with Canada over dairy import quotas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022. 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Alberta

Judge decides ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich stays out on bail

Published on

OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy” protest that gridlocked Ottawa for weeks, will remain released on bail while awaiting trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips said he made his decision because she has followed her bail conditions, her surety has supervised her well and she’s already had a “taste of jail,” which he said lowered her risk to reoffend.

The judge said he does not accept that Lich breached her release conditions by agreeing to receive an award, and added Lich can be trusted to respect the conditions of her release.

She was released in March with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

The terms of Lich’s release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the national capital, the judge said, adding the court does not seek to control people’s political views.

“The courts are not a thought police. We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behaviour will violate or likely lead to violation of the law,” he said.

The protest is over and has left Ottawa, he said, adding it would be “practically impossible” to mount a similar protest in the city again.

Lich’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said in an interview Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision.

“She’ll be able to conduct her life in a lot more normal fashion as a result of the judge’s ruling,” said Greenspon.

Moiz Karimjee, a Crown prosecutor, said last week that Lich violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept an award for her leadership during the Ottawa protest, and should be sent back behind bars to wait for her trial.

Greenspon argued last week her bail conditions should be loosened to allow her to come to Ontario and use social media.

He told the court that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and has had a huge impact on her life while she’s been out of custody.

However, Phillips said Wednesday the ban on Lich’s access to social media is warranted.

“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get egged on and caught up in group activity they would never perform on their own,” he said.

Social media “undoubtedly contributed to and even drove” Lich’s conduct related to the protest, and her separation from it is necessary to lower her risk of reoffending, said Phillips.

Noting that Lich is in her late 40s, Phillips said she should be able to remember “how to use the social skills she surely built up before the advent of the internet.”

Lich is able to communicate by many other means, including email, phone or meeting in person, he said.

Greenspon said while he would have liked to see the social media ban reversed, “the most important thing was the rejection of the Crown’s efforts to to put her back in jail for agreeing to accept an award.”

The judge did amend her release conditions to allow her to visit Ottawa.

Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed because it is under a court-ordered publication ban.

Phillips reiterated the high unlikelihood that Lich could organize an event resembling the convoy protest.

While she’s permitted to come to Ottawa, Lich is not allowed to visit the downtown core so as not “to walk around the very neighbourhoods she is alleged to have traumatized,” he said, except to attend court or meet with legal counsel.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

The “Freedom Convoy” protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that congested the streets of Ottawa in February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Trending

X