As the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel kicked off its final oral hearings for the project Monday morning in Terrace, B.C., the Alberta Federation of Labour registered its strong opposition to the proposed pipeline, arguing that Gateway would not only export valuable raw bitumen but Canadian jobs along with it.
The AFL’s Leanne Chahley was quick to challenge Enbridge’s cost-benefit analysis of the project, as well as the company’s attempt to downplay the need for $1 billion in insurance coverage. The company argues the likelihood of a massive oil spill is very low.
Chahley also attacked the Alberta government’s statement that Northern Gateway would benefit the Canadian economy as a whole for more than 30 years.
During cross-examination hearings, the Alberta government’s own expert, Dr. Harold York, admitted the Northern Gateway pipeline wouldn’t solve market access problems, because it can only transport 525,000 barrels of bitumen a day out of North America to less attractive markets, and that more transportation options would be needed in the future to access Alberta’s oil.
“Now, we were troubled by that, because [the Alberta government’s] evidence was not that this was going to create any kind of long-term impact,” Chahley told the panel.
Alberta’s long-term energy policies call for competitive prices from buyers in divers markets, like those in Asia.
Chahley asked the panel to question the province’s logic in supporting a project that would sell its product at a discounted price and why the province didn’t explain how its energy policies would be met by the approval of Northern Gateway, Chahley said.
She argued those policies could be met if the bitumen was refined in North America and sold at a higher price, which could also provide more Canadian jobs in Alberta refineries.
The AFL represents 27 union affiliates and more than 160,000 Alberta workers.
Chahley said Enbridge promises long-term opportunities for Canadian workers, however to date no concrete evidence has been submitted by Enbridge outlining exactly how many long-term jobs would be created.
There will be jobs in the few years the pipeline is under construction, Chahley acknowledged, “but once that pipeline is finished being constructed, those construction workers will have no more work from the Northern Gateway pipeline. That two to three to four-year period is not going to be a long-term job for a family. It won’t be something that you can retire on.”
Dan Mesec is a freelance reporter based in the Bulkley Valley.