CALGARY - If approval is granted to the proposed Keystone mega-pipeline, literally thousands of potential Alberta jobs in upgraders and refineries will be lost and Alberta will miss out on an historic opportunity to build a more diversified economy.
That was the message delivered today by Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan as he testified before the National Energy Board in Calgary. The NEB is currently considering an application from TransCanada Pipelines to build a major new pipeline to transport huge volumes of unrefined bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to upgraders and refineries in the United States.
The AFL - along with groups like the Communication Energy Paperworkers union and the U of A's Parkland Institute - is attempting to stop or delay the project until policies can be put in place to promote Alberta-based upgrading and refining of bitumen from the oil sands.
"Every barrel of bitumen shipped down the Keystone pipeline or other similar proposed pipelines is a barrel of oil no longer available for value-added production and job creation here in Alberta," said McGowan.
McGowan argued that as many as 18,000 jobs could be "shipped down the pipeline" if Keystone is allowed to proceed. He pointed out that more than a dozen proposed Alberta upgraders and refineries are on the books - more than enough to handle projected increases in oil sands production. But he said he's worried those local projects "may never see the light of day if their potential feedstock is sent to refineries in places like Illinois, Texas and Ohio."
"Why should we settle for the 17 long-term jobs that Keystone would create at a handful of pipeline pumping stations when we could have 18,000 jobs in upgraders or refineries?" asked McGowan.
"Why should we sit on the sidelines while big, U.S. controlled integrated oil companies use our oil to revive their aging refineries in the U.S. mid-west and on the Gulf Coast - when that oil could be used, instead, to transform Alberta into North America's newest hub for upgrading and refining?"
McGowan reserved some of most scathing criticism for the Alberta and federal governments - who are not appearing at the NEB hearings and who have not raised any objections to the Keystone proposal.
"Where are our governments? Who's protecting the public interest? The failure of our governments to be here and promote Canadian-based, value-added production and protect Canadian jobs is nothing short of a travesty," said McGowan.
"I'm particularly disappointed in Ed Stelmach. During the leadership race he promised to be a champion for Alberta-based upgrading and refining. But the silence from his office is deafening. He and his energy minister, Mel Knight, are missing in action on an issue of critical importance to our province's economic future."
McGowan urged the NEB to use the power granted to it under federal legislation to put the pipeline on hold until a "Canada first" approach to managing the oil sands is developed.
"If you follow our advice, a few pipeline and oil companies might face short-term financial setbacks," said McGowan. "But Albertans, the real owners of the resource, have little to lose and much to gain."
McGowan will be available to talk with the media outside the NEB hearing room after the hearings wrap up today at 1:30 p.m. The hearings are being held on the 2nd floor, 444-7th Ave SW, Calgary.
For more information call: AFL president Gil McGowan @ 780-218-9888
Note: Full transcripts of the hearings can be obtained by calling Kristen Higgens, NEB Communications Officer, @ 403-292-4800