New Democrats would reignite plans for four bitumen upgraders near Edmonton, Mason says

Processing oilsands output in Alberta will create jobs, ND leader argues

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason would move forward with four upgraders planned for the Industrial Heartland area northeast of Edmonton, saying on Saturday that keeping bitumen in Alberta creates more jobs and stronger communities.

"We need to not just be the exporter of unprocessed raw materials for the rest of the world to create employment, but to create employment right here in our province," Mason said.

This follows Mason's earlier campaign announcement to increase royalties from bitumen production by 25 per cent, a raise the NDP said would bring in $1.4 billion annually and could be used to improve public services.

"It would be a 25 per cent increase in royalties on bitumen as opposed to refined or upgraded synthetic crude oil. That would have the impact of creating the investment here in our province, instead of in other parts of the world, and I think that's what Albertans expect and demand," Mason said on Saturday.

The NDP announcement comes after organizations, including the Alberta Federation of Labour and Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association, called on party leaders to address plans for the province's petrochemical sector.

AFL President Gil McGowan said the question of whether bitumen should be upgraded in the province or exported in its raw form is one of the most important economic issues facing Alberta today.

"More upgrading makes sense because it keeps jobs, profits and tax revenue here in Alberta, instead of sending all of those things to places like the U.S. or China," McGowan said.

He was pleased with Mason's plans to move forward with the upgraders, if the NDP are elected, and noted he has been "profoundly disappointed" that other party leaders have not addressed the question of upgrading. The Alberta Liberals, Tories and Wildrose parties have all said they will not increase oil and gas royalties if they are elected.

Mason targeted both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties in his announcement, noting the Conservatives are allowing an increasing amount of bitumen to be shipped out of the province, while the Wildrose is "bankrolled by oil companies hoping to keep royalties low and profit margins at record highs."

"The Conservative government has allowed bitumen to be exported from this province without being upgraded here, despite the promise made in the last election by former Premier Ed Stelmach, who likened the export of unprocessed bitumen from the province to scraping off the topsoil from your farm and selling it," Mason said.

By moving forward with the four proposed upgraders, which have been stalled since 2008, Mason said 4,000 permanent operations jobs and 12,000 jobs in service and related industries would be created.

Calgary Herald, Sat Apr 14 2012
Byline: Cailynn Klingbeil

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