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Hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rally at Confederation Building for federal support for oil and gas industry

Hundreds of Newfoundland and Labrador oil and gas workers and their supporters took part in a rally at Confederation Building Wednesday in support of the provincial oil and gas industry. Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Hundreds of Newfoundland and Labrador oil and gas workers and their supporters took part in a rally at Confederation Building Wednesday in support of the provincial oil and gas industry. Keith Gosse/The Telegram
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Premier Andrew Furey says his leverage toward ushering along federal dollars to support the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is his ability to pick up the phone and tell Ottawa of the hardship faced by the industry in the province.

Furey spoke to a crowd of hundreds of oil and gas industry workers gathered at Confederation Building on Wednesday in a plea for support for the industry so they can get back to work.

“I can tell you right now the province is doing everything it can to accelerate whatever deal, whatever structure or framework they’re going to announce,” Furey told reporters at the rally.

“In our purview, we’re talking to the operators about everything that is within our fingertips. There's no sense in talking to me about ‘why don’t you move the global oil price?’ I can’t do that. Everything that we can do, we are investigating, evaluating and doing.”

Furey has touted his leverage with the federal government to accelerate a deal.

“It’s picking up the phone and making sure they understand every single day how hard this is for the people of the province,” he said.

“Ensuring that they know how this impacts families and citizens.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic downturn in the price of oil began, the Hibernia platform has slowed production and stopped drilling, and the Bay du Nord project and West White Rose expansion have been suspended, while the Terra Nova FPSO floats in Conception Bay. Thousands within the industry and thousands in supporting and spinoff industries have felt the effects through layoffs and loss of revenue.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, in a statement, said the federal government is continuing to work on a deal.

“We’re hammering it out. Workers and their families are our Number 1 focus,” reads the statement.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our government has supported this industry and its workers through measures like the wage subsidy and the reduction of wait times for environmental assessments — and we’ll continue to be there for them.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says Furey needs to stop turning over stones and start throwing them at his federal counterparts.

“What action is he taking? What is his plan? What will he say to Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau, whose ear he has, to protect jobs?” said Crosbie.

“The jobs that make Newfoundland and Labrador capable of standing in these difficult fiscal times, on its own two feet, and contributing to a greater Canada."

Speakers at the rally said the time for idle talk is over for their families.

Amanda Young, a chef on the Terra Nova FPSO, said times have been difficult for herself and her colleagues since the downturn in oil and gas.

“Life is far from good. You can see the stress on people’s faces. They’re worried,” she said.

“They’re worried if they might have to sell their houses. How will they pay the next mortgage bill? Car payments? Medical bills? They’re worried about thinking of taking their kids out of extra-curricular activities and changing the courses of their bright futures.”

Carmelita Synard, a technician on the Hibernia platform, said that when she got her job on the platform she made friends that became like family to her. She says she intended to stay with her job until retirement.

“All this changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit us and, boy, really did it hit us hard,” she said, “impacting this industry which has been my life and my family for the past 18 years.”

Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, says whatever federal support comes, it must focus on supporting workers and their families, not big business and shareholders.

“Until the federal government sees fit to announce a transition plan towards a green economy that protects jobs and supports communities, we expect immediate action to be taken to protect the jobs, communities and economy that exists right now,” Shortall said.

“We reject any attempt by any companies to use any financial support they receive from government to extract jobs, working conditions or concessions from workers and their unions.”

NOIA CEO Charlene Johnson says time is short for the industry.

“I am having a difficult time feeling optimistic about the future of the offshore, but also of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Johnson said.

“For months, we have heard that the urgency of our situation is understood. We have heard a whole lot of platitudes. But we have not seen action.”

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