Hard-hit Drayton Valley businesses invite prime minister to talk oil, economy: 'We need your help'

WATCH ABOVE: Small business owners in Drayton Valley say a bad economy is becoming unbearable and now they want to talk to the prime minister about the problem directly. Fletcher Kent reports.

Dozens of small business owners around Drayton Valley, Alta., have penned a letter to Justin Trudeau, inviting the prime minister to visit and have an “open, non-partisan discussion.”

The Suits and Boots group of about 50 owners and operators includes people who work in the oilpatch or who are connected to the energy sector in some way.

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“Like many regions around this province, our area is being hit hard by the sustained and devastating drop in the price of Western Canadian Select oil,” they wrote Nov. 26 in an open invitation to Trudeau.

“Businesses are closing, people are moving away, families are being torn apart and too many are beginning to lose hope.”

They thanked Trudeau for visiting Alberta and speaking with energy CEOs in Calgary, as well as elected officials and the media.

READ MORE: ‘This is very much a crisis’ — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says of low Alberta oil price

“We think, however, that you have only missed meeting with one important group — that is us, the ‘boots on the ground,’ up here in small-town northern Alberta, who work in the energy sector or whose livelihoods depend upon it.

“We live every day with the practical applications of policies that governments of all levels impose on us. … We fully support sustainable resource development and we also fully recognize the right we have to free and open access to world markets for our oil. And right now, there’s a lot that’s not working.”

The letter-writers acknowledge Canada’s lack of pipeline capacity as part of the problem and also admit the causes are multi-faceted.

“There are no simple solutions. Yes, we have some very strong ideas on some things that we think should be done, but we also know there are limits to what you can do, or what anyone can do.”

READ MORE: Kenney calls for oil production cut as report paints bleak fiscal future for Alberta

The group extended an invitation to Trudeau to come to Drayton Valley for an “informal chat.”

“Time is running out for our families, for our region and for our province. Now, more than ever, we need to focus on what is essential, what is doable, and what we can work on together.”

They promise a respectful, interested and non-partisan audience who only have Alberta and Canada’s best interests at heart. They ask to hear the prime minister’s ideas and plans and request the chance to work together to figure out some solutions. They said they could accommodate the prime minister’s schedule if he could visit Drayton Valley.

“We need your help, sir,” the group said in closing. “Let’s get this done.”

The letter was personally signed by about 75 individuals.

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Suits and Boots director Rick Peterson says it has been getting a lot of great response. He calls the campaign as grassroots as it gets.

“There’s lots of people doing good work on the advocacy side. We’re more interested to move the needle and the way to move the needle is to get the prime minister out to listen to the people on the ground,” Peterson said.

“Demonstrations are good but there’s not a lot of listening when there’s a demonstration. Listening comes from direct contact and what we hope happens in Drayton Valley with the prime minister.”

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And, on Thursday, the group received a call from the prime minister’s office.

“It’s very encouraging,” Peterson said. “They’ve reached out to us and it’s a credit to the PMO for coming back to us on it.”

 

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