EDMONTON - Alberta union leader Gil McGowan met with federal politicians in Ottawa on Thursday to protest a proposed extension of the Keystone XL pipeline, which he says will pump jobs into the United States rather than build opportunities to refine raw bitumen in Fort McMurray or Fort Saskatchewan.
"Frankly we were looking for allies, and we found them," McGowan said after the meeting, which was attended by opposition MPs.
The Alberta Federation of Labour president called the pipeline expansion a "job killer," suggesting its completion will ruin the chances of thousands of jobs being created in Alberta. Pulling from a cross-section of reports that show the pipeline could provide as few as 99,000 jobs to the U.S. economy by 2020 or as many as 270,000 jobs by 2030, McGowan said the Keystone XL project will create few new jobs in Canada.
"It's clear to us that the majority of Albertans and the majority of Canadians would like to see us move up the value ladder with our oilsands resources, rather than sell our resources south of the border in their raw form," he said.
Upon completion, the $12-billion pipeline expansion is expected to push about 900,000 barrels of bitumen from Alberta to Texas each day.
But Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada — the company building the pipeline extension — pointed out Thursday no one is in the market to build a new refinery in Alberta, so Canadian jobs aren't being lost.
"We don't go and build a pipeline like Field of Dreams, where we build it and hope we can fill it. We do this in response to demand that the market has identified," Howard said.
No refining jobs would have been created in Alberta as a result of the project, Howard said. "Good luck trying to get a refinery built. It's very difficult; it's extremely expensive."
McGowan said it is up to provincial and federal governments to tighten export regulations to require more upgrading be done in Alberta. "Just because it's cheaper for companies (to export) doesn't mean that we as the owners of the resource should allow that to happen."
While the pipeline project has vocal opponents concerned about potential environmental impacts, McGowan isn't alone in protesting the project on economic grounds.
Last week, in an interview with the CBC, former premier Peter Lougheed said he'd prefer that bitumen be processed in Alberta to keep jobs in the province. In an editorial piece penned for the Edmonton Journal this week, provincial NDP Leader Brian Mason also highlighted the potential loss of domestic job growth that could come with the pipeline extension.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Sept 22 2011
Byline: Trish Audette