The Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 workers, is adding its voice to the growing list of opponents of a proposed pipeline project that would ship raw bitumen from Alberta's oilsands to Texas refineries.
If the extension of the Trans-Canada Keystone X-L pipeline is approved, it would stretch 3 feet wide and run 2,600 kilometres from Hardisty all the way to Texas - the length of about 26,000 football fields.
The project is expected to cost 7 billion dollars, but is also anticipated to have an economic impact in the billions, as it would potentially almost double oil production in Alberta to a million barrels a day.
"It's hard for me to imagine that the eventual decision would be not to build that. The economic case is so overwhelming," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New York on Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department is in the midst of deciding whether the project is in their national interests, and will be holding public consultation meetings across the pipeline route over the next three weeks.
But environmental groups have already been making their voices heard, staging two weeks of protests outside the White House in opposition of the pipeline this past month.
Now economic groups are also fighting to stop the construction of the project, arguing the pipeline would allow the US to take Alberta's crude oil and reap the rewards for refining it. Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, believes it would be more responsible for the province to develop its refining capabilities, instead of just shipping raw bitumen to be refined south of the border.
"As an Albertan, I'm profoundly worried," said McGowan in Ottawa on Thursday. "Once the construction is complete, all we are going to be left with is a pipeline sucking up our resources south of the border, and no jobs for future generations."
He argues approving Keystone XL would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S., but would only add about a dozen permanent jobs in Alberta.
Harper's government is refuting that claim though.
"The fact is the oilsands are responsible for over 140,000 jobs across Canada," said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in the House of Commons, in response to questions from Laurin Liu, the NDP MP for Riviere-des-Mille-Iles, Que. "The job number is expected to grow to almost half a million jobs...Employment in Canada is much too important to be used to make political gains."
A final meeting on the pipeline project will be held in Washington on October 7th, with a final decision from the U.S. State Department expected by the end of the year.
Global Edmonton, Thurs Sept 22 2011