Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that Canada is proceeding with plans for an oil-patch bailout even as talks among the world’s major oil producers have hit a bump.
Mr. Trudeau said Saturday that a call scheduled for Monday among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other oil-producing nations was “canceled.”
Media reports earlier in the day said the Monday meeting was no longer scheduled. Reuters reported that a squabble between Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States’ failure to suggest it would curb production, was to blame. Reuters said three OPEC sources, who it did not name, said the emergency virtual meeting would likely be postponed until Wednesday or Thursday to allow more time for negotiations.
A postponement of the meeting may reverse big gains in oil prices in recent sessions. After U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that Russia and Saudi Arabia were close to a deal, oil prices rocketed 25 per cent.
Mr. Trudeau again declined Saturday to say whether Canada was to formally participate in the call , saying only “we’re continuing to engage with our partners.” He also rebuffed a question about what kind of specific global production cuts Canada desires.
He said Canada will not wait for any OPEC agreement before finalizing a highly anticipated rescue of Canada’s energy industry. “We are continuing to work forward regardless of what happens in the global context on support for oil and gas workers who are, you know, suffering,” he said, adding the federal government is also moving forward “in direct supports for workers across the country in all industries.”
Finance Minister Bill Morneau promised in late March the energy-industry package would be coming in “hours, possibly days.” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney – who had said the province’s Energy Minister, Sonya Savage, would be in Monday’s OPEC talks - has repeatedly urged the federal government to financially back the Canadian oil sector. A support package will need to be upward of $20-billion, he said on Thursday during an interview with BNN Bloomberg.
Richard Masson, chair of the World Petroleum Council-Canada, told the Globe and Mail on Friday that an effective global production-cut deal would need to reach at least 15 million barrels a day, the high end of a range suggested by Mr. Trump. He also said it was critical for Canada to be at the negotiating table with OPEC, because having the United States as a single customer leaves Canada’s industry “very vulnerable.”
Mr. Trump met Friday with leaders of large energy companies Friday, but no message of production cuts emerged afterward. Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saudia Arabia’s withdrawal from a deal between OPEC and Russian allies contributed to the slide in oil prices started by the economic damage from COVID-19.
Saturday, Saudi Arabia returned rhetorical fire, with Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman saying the Russian minister of energy was the first to declare to the media that all the countries participating in the deal were free to raise production.
With files from Emma Graney in Calgary and Marieke Walsh in Ottawa and Reuters
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