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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Mr. Kenney repeated his plea for Ottawa to urgently address the crisis by providing credit support and liquidity for the oil-and-gas industry.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is pursuing a joint oil strategy with the United States to stop what he called the “predatory dumping" of crude on North American markets by Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s energy sector is in dire straits as it faces cripplingly low oil prices in the face of tanking demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an oil-price war between the Saudis and Russia.

As the Western Canadian Select price for crude fell below US$5 a barrel Friday, Mr. Kenney repeated his plea for Ottawa to urgently address the crisis by providing credit support and liquidity for the oil-and-gas industry.

But he rejected the idea of using government-ordered curtailment to lower crude production, saying companies are already reducing output in the face of “ridiculously low” prices.

At a provincial pandemic briefing Friday, Mr. Kenney said “unfriendly dictatorships” are trying to destroy the North American energy sector.

"We cannot let them win,” he said.

Earlier that day, Mr. Kenney called Francis Fannon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for energy resources, to make the case for North American co-operation. The Alberta Premier said he plans to speak with congressional leaders and governors from energy-producing states in the coming days.

The energy sector represents millions of jobs and billions of dollars to the North American economy, Mr. Kenney said, and it must be protected.

“I fear, if the Saudis and Russians continue this foolishness in the midst of a crash in demand, you will see these kinds of catastrophically low prices for some time,” he said.

To remedy the situation, Mr. Kenney floated possible tariffs on oil imports and an investigation of Saudi Arabia’s dumping of oil into the North American market, similar to a proposal made last week by U.S. shale tycoon Harold Hamm.

The Alberta Premier also wants to pursue a co-ordinated approach to production curtailment across North America, to help stabilize prices once the continent emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. He also welcomed the idea of a closed U.S.-Canadian oil market that rejects crude from outside North America.

“We cannot allow the Saudis and Russians to effectively run us out of the business of producing energy,” he said.

“We must be partners on a North American basis, in part so we don’t end up being sideswiped by any potential American action to defend the industry."

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