ALBERTA

Alberta's Unemployment Crisis Has No Quick Fix: Federal Employment Minister

12/21/2015 06:12 EST | Updated 12/21/2015 06:59 EST
Adrian Wyld/CP

CALGARY — Canada's employment minister says there is no short-term fix for Alberta's growing unemployment rate.

MaryAnn Mihychuk met with Calgary business, municipal and economic leaders Monday to address economic difficulties facing the province.

She said there's no magic wand the federal government can wave to undo the impact of low oil prices, which have led to 40,000 job losses in the energy sector.

"We understand the crisis here in Alberta. It's not only here. This is the most dramatic, but it's also impacting Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C.,'' Mihychuk said.

"Did I come with a wallet full of cash? No.''

One of the first things the federal Liberal government intends to do is move ahead with cash for infrastructure projects and there is likely to be funding in the upcoming federal budget, she said.

"This is going to be able to move some people from one sector to another. We will work with the province to ensure some training happens if some people need to be remobilized.

"But did I come with a wallet full of cash? No.''

Mihychuk said she sympathizes with those who are facing tough times and the efforts they are making to try to carry on through the challenges.

"We understand the crisis here in Alberta. It's not only here."

But she warned things will probably get worse before they get better.

"Your unemployment numbers have gone up, which provided greater access to employment insurance. Is that going to be enough for this downturn? I don't think so.''

What's the plan?

Federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose accused the Liberals of having no economic plan, other than to tax and spend, to respond to the collapse of oil prices.

"I am urging Prime Minister Trudeau to recognize the job crisis in Alberta and be clear about his plan to support Alberta growth and job creation, both in the short and long term,'' Ambrose said in a statement.

Lost jobs in Alberta have put a tremendous strain on the province, she said.

"Across Alberta, thousands of families are facing the holidays without an income to cover basic needs.

"Food-bank use has skyrocketed and Albertans are increasingly battling emotional and mental-health issues because of their tough circumstances.''

"Thousands of families are facing the holidays without an income to cover basic needs."

Ambrose said any federal plan should include job training, infrastructure spending and innovation investments. She also suggested the government needs to find a way to get pipelines approved and built.

"Canada loses billions by not accessing world prices for oil and developing export markets in the massive and growing Pacific Rim economies.''

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