Oilsands project’s demise sends ripples through central Alberta

Concerns raised about lost jobs and message sent to potential investors

The shock waves of Teck Resources Ltd.’s decision to pull the plug on its $20-billion oilsands project is rippling through central Alberta.

Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president Rick More worries about the long-term implications of such a high-profile project getting pulled.

“I worry this is setting precedent for investment due to all the uncertainty,” said More. “Any bright spot for employment is a huge impact, so this sets us back for optimism.

“To say this is making a statement is an understatement. It’s getting disheartening when it’s one step forward and two back.”

Premier Jason Kenney has blamed Ottawa, saying dithering by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government on approving the project, coupled with recent rail blockades by protesters of a natural gas project in B.C., have made investors think twice about Canada.

Building Trades of Alberta executive director Terry Parker admits the Teck Resources announcement Sunday came as a shock, since the mega-project seemed to be heading toward approval, and Indigenous groups and the trades had a good relationship with the company.

Parker said the organization that represents 60,000 skilled trades workers across the province welcomed the prospect of the 7,000 jobs the project was expected to create.

“Now, with the economy the way it is, we have had members who have been out of work for some time.

“It would have helped our members out quite a bit if the project had been moving forward here.

“Our members are disappointed. We have members in the Red Deer area and a lot of them were looking at this project as being the next big one.

“This was going to be a mega-project for us. This could have given us years of employment.”

Besides helping workers support their families, billions of dollars in taxes and royalties would have gone to the provincial and federal governments.

Parker hopes that another company may be interested in moving the project forward if Teck isn’t.

“It would have been an economic game-changer for the province.”

Teck’s decision has triggered the predictable round of finger pointing as to who is to blame.

Alberta Environment Minister and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon tweeted his criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, saying Trudeau had expressed his desire to work with Alberta on election night.

“This was an empty promise, plain and simple,” says Nixon. “I want to know what the PM would say to the Albertans and First Nations who would’ve benefited from this project.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour laid blame at the foot of the Alberta government.

AFL president Don McGowan noted that Teck CEO and president Don Lindsay said investors and customers are looking to jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles development and climate change.

McGowan took that to mean that the global investment community is “increasingly unlikely to support projects that are not consistent with the climate goals set out in the Paris Accord.

“What this means for Alberta is that the future of our oil and gas sector depends on us taking climate change much more seriously and putting much more rigorous policies in place to reduce emissions,” says McGowan in a statement released on Monday.

McGowan says Premier Jason Kenney’s “climate belligerence is doing more to drive away investment and kill jobs than anything that’s been done by environmentalists or Indigenous protesters.”



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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