Creating value-added jobs downgraded from promise to "aspirational goal"
EDMONTON, Feb. 12 /CNW/ - When it comes to Premier Stelmach's
oft-repeated promise to keep oil sands jobs in Alberta instead of shipping
them down the pipeline to the U.S., his government's new oil sands plan is
little more than an admission of defeat.
"What this document says is that government will 'urge' and 'encourage'
big energy players to diversify the industry. But what it doesn't say is that
the government will actually intervene," says Gil McGowan, president of the
Alberta Federation of Labour.
"This kind of limp language is cold comfort to the thousands of
construction and energy workers who have lost their jobs over the past two
months - and the thousands of others who will almost certainly meet the same
fate over the next year."
McGowan points out that the report downgrades the government's promise to
upgrade and refine more bitumen in the province to an "aspirational goal."
At the same time, the report specifically says the government will
encourage the development of more outbound pipelines - which, up to this
point, have been little more than bitumen superhighways, taking raw bitumen
(and potential Alberta jobs) to refiners in the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast.
The plan also seems to accept the argument - advanced by industry groups
like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) - that Alberta
actually needs to ship more raw bitumen to the US in order to "find a better
McGowan says that by embracing this argument, the government has
basically given up on its previous promises to champion value-added jobs.
"The Tories can't have it both ways," says McGowan. "Either you believe
we should create value-added jobs here or you believe that raw bitumen should
be shipped to the States. This report suggests the government has sided with
the big upstream energy players who want to export more raw bitumen. As a
result, everything else in the report dealing with the subject of value-added
jobs is little more than lip service."
McGowan says that, when it comes to creating more value-added jobs, the
only concrete measure offered by the government is the already announced
creation of a system for collecting bitumen in lieu of royalties.
"But given the global credit freeze and low international oil prices,
building up a big pool of bitumen isn't going to be enough to convince anyone
to build here instead of in Texas," says McGowan.
McGowan says the report also fails to recognize the changing political
realities related to the oil sands - in particular the election of the Obama
administration in the U.S., which is clearly serious about cleaning up the
environment and reforming America's energy economy.
"Given the new political realities, it baffles me how the government
could release a report that says so little about setting the bar much, much
higher on environmental issues," says McGowan. "What Albertans needed was a
big vision: like using the wealth generated by the oil sands to leverage our
province towards a greener, more broadly based economy. But it just wasn't
For further information:
For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President at (780) 483-3021
(office) or (780) 218-9888 (cell)