Feds announce $1.7B to clean up parts of the oil patch

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $1.7 billion program to clean up abandoned and orphaned oil wells in western provinces.

Trudeau said the plan could benefit some Indigenous communities.

“In Alberta alone, these investments will maintain 5,200 jobs,” said Trudeau on Friday.”We’ve listened to the concerns of land owners, municipalities and Indigenous communities who want to make sure that the polluter pay principle is strengthened and that their voices are heard.”

But observers say the federal government’s oil patch bailout package announced Friday should come with strings attached.

“(Money) should be tied to regulatory change in Alberta to ensure the province puts in place a polluter-pays program, so the public is not left with these liabilities in the future,” said Greenpeace Canada spokesman Keith Stewart.

Trudeau said his government plans to spend the money in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to clean up “orphan wells” – oil and gas wells that have been abandoned by their often-bankrupt owners without being remediated.

At its own daily news conference, the government’s Covid-19 cabinet committee stressed the importance of maintaining jobs in the petroleum industry which employs more than half a million people including 11,000 Indigenous workers.

MPs asking questions about emergency fund

MPs from the opposition parties are asking questions about the program for off-reserve and urban Indigenous peoples.

NDP MP Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski) and Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre) wrote a letter to Miller raising concerns over the money for the Indigenous Community Support Fund: Urban and off-reserve Indigenous organizations and communities.

Ashton question why the April 13 deadline was attached to it when other emergency funds don’t.

She said the money isn’t enough.

“As my colleague Leah Gazan has pointed out, Indigenous people are 3 per cent of Canada’s population. When you look at the COVID-19 funding, only 1 per cent is going towards Indigenous communities,” said Ashton. “And we know that Indigenous communities are disproportionally at risk when it comes to Covid 19.”

Ashton said she has been contacted by Indigenous leaders who are concerned for their members living off reserve.

She said she wants to see more money for them – and the deadline for the urban Indigenous fund lifted.

APTN News was hoping to question Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller on the money but he was again absent from the meeting.