Red Deer city council adds its voice to growing call for federal action on pipelines

Large pro-pipeline rally planned for Rocky this weekend

Red Deer city council is joining an Alberta-wide call, demanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take action to help the slumping oilpatch by starting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in 2019.

“The federal government needs to govern in the interest of all Canadians,” said Mayor Tara Veer, who’s among thousands of Albertans who feel getting Alberta oil to international markets is in the national interest.

This same message will be sent by the 500 central Albertans expected at a rally Saturday in Rocky Mountain House. It’s described as a “fight to revive our economy” by organizers Stephen Petersen and Chad Miller, who are upset about the “devastating price drop” of oil, as determined by the U.S. market.

“It’s not only crippling our economy, but our families, our jobs, our province and our nation,” they state. “The future of our industry is at stake. We must get a pipeline built and gain market access in 2019.”

The rally is set for 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lou Soppit Community Centre in Rocky Mountain House. Speakers will “explain the importance of getting Alberta back on track.”

This rising frustration is being heard by Red Deer city council, which while it is limited in the action it can take in support of such infrastructure projects, is endorsing a letter from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

It calls on Trudeau, “who has ultimate jurisdiction on inter-provincial trade,” to deal with an issue that is “crucial to our Confederation.”

The letter urges Ottawa to take a “broad national view,” given the often competing nature of provincial interests.

Federal responsibility to protect the national interest is “one of the bedrocks of our great nation, and why your support and intervention is so critical,” continues the letter, which recognizes Trudeau’s attempts to move the project forward.

Unlike many Albertans, Red Deer city council does not blame the federal Liberals for not being resolute enough to champion the pipeline project that was stymied by a court ruling last August.

“Look back 20 years,” said Coun. Frank Wong, and Conservative governments did not have the vision to expand pipelines, even though the oil industry was then booming.

Wong believes it’s vital to push for pipelines now “because we’re at a stalemate. The U.S. is controlling how much our oil and gas is worth” and Canadian oil needs more markets.

Coun. Buck Buchanan said he could better understand B.C.’s environmental resistance if this was a brand-new pipeline, but it’s a twinning project that’s already gone through a rigorous approval process.

“Make it happen,” Buchanan demands of Ottawa — or risk sending the message that Canadian interests can be tied up in legal red tape.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said city council knows many Red Deerians are financially struggling.

While it’s important to diversify the economy with renewable energy projects, this will not happen overnight — nor will motorists stop needing gas anytime soon, she added. Meanwhile, “people are hoping something will happen so they can go back to work…

“It’s not a matter of either-or… We need pipelines and we need renewable energy,” said Wyntjes.

But Alberta mostly needs optimism — which will come from governments easing the current recession, with a vision to the future, she added.

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