CALGARY – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivered her first big speech Friday to a Calgary business community reeling from the slump in crude prices and scores of resulting layoffs.
It wasn’t clear if she managed to calm any jitters during her address to more than 1,500 people in the white-collar heart of the oilpatch.
A smattering of applause greeted one remark about Alberta remaining a relatively low-tax jurisdiction, but the room was otherwise quiet throughout the speech.
At the end there was polite applause but no standing ovation.
“I actually didn’t perceive that the crowd was cold in any way,” Notley told reporters. “I think that people were listening.”
Benchmark crude prices are flirting with the US$50 a barrel mark — an improvement from recent lows, but a far cry from the US$90 level it was at a year ago and below what many producers need.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has estimated that 36,000 oil and natural gas jobs have been shed so far this year, mainly in Alberta.
Notley’s message to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce echoed much of what she’s said recently in Toronto, Montreal and New York. She touted Alberta as an attractive place to invest and stressed the importance of tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
On her eastern tour, Notley said she heard from investors about how important it is to get it right on climate change.
“Failing to move on climate change will actually generate more instability than getting in line with where the rest of the world is going,” she said.
Notley, whose NDP government swept to power in May, also reiterated that she’d be casting her vote for the NDP in the upcoming federal election.
“I believe its principles and values are what the country needs now, as are the grit, the determination and the intellect of Tom Mulcair,” she said.
“But I want to say to you this. Whoever wins the election, as premier of Alberta, I intend to pick up our conversation with either Prime Minister Mulcair, Prime Minister Harper or Prime Minister Trudeau in pursuit of Alberta’s interests.”
Derek Fildebrandt, finance critic for Alberta’s right-of-centre Opposition Wildrose party, said it was odd for Notley to voice support for Mulcair during the speech.
“This was a chance to add something new to the conversation, something of substance and that was missing,” he said.
“Inviting business leaders in Calgary to vote for Thomas Mulcair is like the fox inviting the hen to dinner.”
Adam Legge, who heads up the chamber, said the business community is looking for certainty. He said they didn’t get that in Notley’s speech.
Legge acknowledged that Notley was in a “tough spot” because many of the answers businesses are seeking will be in the Oct. 27 provincial budget.
“I think people came away thinking that we have a very friendly, a very outgoing and a very true Albertan in our premier, but I don’t think business came away with any solid answers that the situation, the environment, is going to be any better.”