CALGARY – Justin Trudeau’s Liberal victory is raising concerns for many in Calgary’s oilpatch: they worry his energy policies will mimic his father’s.
Pierre Trudeau alienated Western Canada and made his party a political pariah in Alberta when he implemented the national energy program (NEP) in the early 1980s.
As the energy industry continues to struggle, companies are in no mood for governmental surprises, says Phil Roberts of Vintri Technologies.
“I would say most people are looking for certainty, and these are very uncertain times,” he said.
Some Calgarians have never forgotten the elder Trudeau’s NEP, which caused massive economic damage in the oilpatch.
Soft oil prices in 2015 are causing their own economic hardship in Calgary.
“Our rig fleet is hovering around 185 rigs, active rigs, in Western Canada,” said Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors president Mark Scholz. “Those statistics are very similar to what we saw in about 1983, so we are experiencing an economic environment very much like what we saw back in the 80s.”
READ MORE: Justin Trudeau has ties to energy-conscious Western Canada his father didn’t, says Goodale
In 1980 oil prices were at an historic high for the time at over $30 a barrel, people were moving to Calgary in large numbers looking for jobs, real estate prices skyrocketed—but all of that crashed as the city was plunged into a recession.
Former investment advisor Peter Linder says times are different today: Calgary’s economy is more diversified and stable, and recessions don’t run as deep. But he warns misguided Liberal policies could still cause pain in the city.
“The father made it so bad, so I don’t think the son is going to follow the father’s footsteps,” he said. “Having said that, it’s going to get worse with the Liberals in power versus the Conservatives in power.”
Calgary Centre’s newly elected Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who eked out a close win against Tory incumbent Joanne Crockatt, says Calgarians shouldn’t fear the return of the NEP.
“NEP 2.0 is not going to happen,” said Hehr.
“Go to sleep tonight; relax. We are going to govern in the best interest of this great nation and a large part of that is the future of Calgary, the future of the oil industry, and how it plays a role in lifting all.”
Trudeau will swear in his new cabinet, including Canada’s new energy minister, Nov. 4.
READ MORE: Selecting cabinet one of first orders of business for Trudeau
With files from Erika Tucker