AFL urges voters to hold Tories accountable before thousands of high-
value jobs are lost forever
EDMONTON, Feb. 23 /CNW/ - Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach got some help from
the National Energy Board (NEB) yesterday when they decided to quietly release
their approval of the controversial Alberta Clipper super pipeline late on a
Friday afternoon - obviously hoping for as little media attention as possible.
But regardless of the way the announcement was made, the fact remains
that the decision has serious - and very negative - long-term implications for
Albertans, says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"This is the second major bitumen pipeline to be given approval by the
NEB in the last six months," says McGowan. "The Keystone pipeline was approved
in September. The Alberta Clipper was approved yesterday. And a third pipeline
called Southern Lights was approved earlier this week that will carry
lubricant from Chicago up to Alberta. This lubricant is designed to make raw
oil sands flow more easily down pipelines.
"Taken together, these three pipelines will provide the plumbing
necessary to export about 1.4 million barrels of raw oil sands per day to
refineries in the American mid-west and Gulf coast. That means that almost all
of the expected increase in oil sands production between now and 2015 could be
carried away in those pipes. But it won't be just raw bitumen going down those
pipelines - we'll also be losing thousands of high-paying upgrader and
McGowan says he's not particularly surprised that bureaucrats at the NEB
approved the application from Enbridge Inc. to develop the Alberta Clipper.
What does surprise him is Premier Ed Stelmach's apparent lack of interest in
"This is the guy who, when he was running for the Conservative
leadership, said that allowing raw bitumen to be exported without first
upgrading or refining it in Alberta was like 'a farmer selling off his
topsoil'," said McGowan.
"He's also the guy who in a recent Conservative television ad said very
clearly that - and this is a direct quote from the Premier himself - 'we'll
ensure our oil sands are upgraded right here.' So what's the deal, Ed? If
you're so dead set against sending Alberta jobs down the pipeline, why haven't
you even raised a finger to put restrictions on pipelines that everyone knows
will do just that?"
McGowan says the AFL is not opposed to all new pipelines - as an
exporting province, we obviously need mechanisms to get our products to
markets. What the AFL is opposed to are pipelines that will be used almost
exclusively to transport raw bitumen - as opposed to upgraded crude or refined
products like gasoline and diesel. McGowan says that evidence presented in NEB
hearings - which the Stelmach government didn't even bother to attend -
clearly shows that the Keystone and Alberta Clipper pipelines will be nothing
more than "bitumen super-highways."
"Premier Stelmach has spewed a lot of rhetoric on this issue," said
McGowan. "But action speaks louder than words. And Stelmach's inaction on this
issue speaks volumes about where he really stands. It's clear that he's simply
not willing to stand up to Big Oil.
"These companies clearly have a plan to send massive amounts of unrefined
bitumen to refineries and upgraders in the U.S. And, in the absence of any
clear restrictions or regulations from the provincial government, that's
exactly what they're going to do."
McGowan points out that in addition to his inaction on the Alberta
Clipper and Keystone pipelines, Stelmach has also done nothing to stop or even
discourage companies like Encana, Conoco Philips and Husky Energy from
proceeding with plans to export hundreds of thousands of barrels of raw
bitumen from their oil sands projects.
"Stelmach and the Tories are sleepwalking over a cliff - and they're
taking the rest of Alberta with them," said McGowan. "The only good news is
that we're still in the middle of an election campaign. So, I encourage all
Albertans to demand real action from Premier Stelmach and the Conservatives on
this issue. If no action is taken to keep oil sands jobs in Alberta, then the
Conservative should be made to pay a price at the ballot box."
Note: McGowan will be attending a function with electrical workers in
Edmonton between noon and 1:30 p.m. today. Reporters interested in doing
face-to-face interviews should call McGowan before this function and he will
make arrangements to come out of the meeting to talk.
For further information:
For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President, (780) 218-9888