Province being pushed to help Peace Region energy companies losing business to Alberta

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Oil and gas jobs in the Peace Region along with millions of dollars in revenue are being lost every year.

That's because B.C. companies say they can't compete with energy contractors from Alberta and are being outbid for jobs.

When asked about it on a visit to the Site C dam, B.C's Energy Minister seemingly downplayed the issue. "I'm acutely aware of that issue and in that program I think there was general satisfaction with the processes in which British Columbia companies got the work and not Alberta companies," Bruce Ralston said.

But Liberal MLA for Peace River North Dan Davies disagrees with Ralston saying the NDP government has known about the issue for a couple of years and have done nothing about it. "It is cheaper to do things in Alberta, and that puts British Columbia at a bit of a disadvantage when these Alberta companies are just coming across the border working here," he said.  

When asked last month if the government planned to do anything about the problem, Minister Ralston’s office said no. Communication officials adding not unless they hear a complaint.

But a local business owner telling CJDC TV News that energy companies from the Peace Region are afraid to bring the issue up for fear of being black-balled and losing even more business as a result.

Davies said "Holding these companies to account to make sure that it does keep our British Columbia companies, our companies based out of Fort St. John, our companies based out of Dawson Creek to make sure they're competitive with our neighbours across the border." 

Money and jobs from the B.C. energy industry being siphoned back to Alberta is not a new issue. What is new is the NDP government is finally talking about it.

The Mayor of Fort St. John and the MLA for Peace River North have been pressuring the government to take action.

Davies said "This policy was given to the previous B.C.  Liberal government in 2016. It was the last year they were in government. So obviously big policy changes take a coupe of years. But our present government has been in power for five years and there's still been no movement on this."

The province of Saskatchewan has had the same issue. Saskatchewan increased monitoring of their provincial sales tax to make sure Alberta companies were paying their fair share to level the playing field.

Ralston says he's raised the tax evasion issue with B.C.’s Ministry of Finance. "The Ministry of Finance has field staff here who undertake investigations. I don't direct those investigations. But they are aware of the issue," he said.  

But Davies says the province should hire more staff to look into who is working on energy contracts in the Peace and where exactly those companies are based.  "Having one person in the entire Northeast covering 250,000 square kilometres to go around and to look at job sites. It's a massive undertaking and there needs to be quite frankly tighter policy around that."

Davies claiming it could be around "hundreds of millions of dollars" leaving the Peace Region every year.

After raising the issue in the legislature, Davies saying he's planning to reach out to put more pressure on the Energy Minister to fix the problem.