Help for Canadian oilpatch coming in ‘hours, possibly days,’ finance minister says

Help for Canada’s oil and gas sector is “hours, possibly days” away, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday, as the industry continues to slash spending plans by the billions of dollars.

Addressing a Senate committee meeting, Morneau said the energy sector has been hit by a combination of an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, tumultuous stock markets and COVID-19.

“The energy sector is in a particularly challenging situation,” Morneau said.

The minister said Ottawa has been in daily contact with provincial governments to discuss those issues and how it is impacting provincial revenues.

“We’re also in hourly contact with the energy sector to think about how we can bridge the time by providing some sort of appropriate credit opportunities for them — and that is work that is going on right now,” he said.

“I don’t have the final answer on the exact hour that that will be delivered, but I’m not talking about weeks. I’m talking about hours, potentially days, that we can ensure that there’s credit facilities for especially the small- and medium-size firms in that sector.”

Morneau did not discuss how the federal government would do this.

He said the 10 largest companies in the oil and gas sector have existing credit relationships with their banks and, in most cases, have available credit.

“But they are under strain, too,” he said. “So we’re also looking at individual issues in that sector. Those are all important.”

Canada’s oil and gas sector is being hit with the fallout of plunging crude prices linked to a market share battle between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and lower demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Suncor Energy, Husky Energy, Cenovus Energy, MEG Energy and Seven Generations Energy are among the list of other companies to also announce spending reductions recently.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg News pegged the amount of money that Canadian energy companies have slashed in capital spending for the year at between $5.3 billion to $6.5 billion.

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