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Ottawa must consider all jobs in all provinces: Eyre

Saskatchewan’s energy and resources minister says the federal government should work equally hard to protect all Canadians’ jobs, whether they are engineers in Quebec, automotive workers in Ontario — or oilfield employees in Saskatchewan.

“The concern must always be with all sectors, and the impact on all jobs, in all provinces,” Bronwyn Eyre told reporters on a conference call after testifying before the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

“I would hope that the prime minister would acknowledge that this is a problem in a number of sectors across the country,” added Eyre, who was in Ottawa on Thursday to restate the province’s opposition to Bill C-69.

Introduced last year, Bill C-69 would overhaul the environmental review and approval process for many of those projects. It passed through the House of Commons in June and is now being considered by the Senate.

Some of the bill’s critics, a group that includes the Saskatchewan government, have referred to it as the “anti-pipeline bill.” Eyre said she went to Ottawa to urge senators to exercise their “sober second thought.”

Eyre’s appearance before the committee — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and others also testified — comes one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his commitment to stand up for jobs at SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

Trudeau’s remarks came amid a growing scandal involving allegations made by former Minister of Justice and Attorney Jody Wilson-Raybould about the Prime Minister’s Office interfering in a court case involving the Quebec engineering giant.

Speaking to reporters in Montreal on Wednesday, Trudeau said his government will “always focus on jobs and our economy,” and discussed the “potential loss of 9,000 (SNC-Lavalin) jobs across the country.”

Many western Canadian critics have accused Ottawa of not doing enough to support the energy sector, particularly its ability to get major infrastructure projects such as pipelines approved and built.

Last week, the C.D. Howe Institute warned of “fundamental problems” in the bill, and said it could “worsen” the “disease” of plummeting business investment in resource projects, which fell $100 billion between 2017 and 2018.

In her opening statement to the committee, Eyre reiterated the provincial government’s many objections to the bill and urged senators to avoid subjecting the country’s energy sector to more process-related uncertainty.

Asked whether she thinks the prime minister is treating jobs in different provinces differently, Eyre did not directly answer the question but again urged the federal government to treat every sector of the economy equally.

“When we talk about sectors and workers in trouble, whether it’s the GM workers (in Oshawa, Ont.) or whether it’s potentially SNC-Lavalin or whether it’s the oil and gas sector … then it becomes a national issue, surely.”