Alberta Federation of Labour makes case against Gateway

The Alberta Federation of Labour gave its final arguments against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline on Monday, begging the joint review panel to reject the project.

At a hearing in Terrace, B.C., AFL president Gil McGowan argued Gateway will hurt Canada's economy, creating few jobs locally and more jobs in Chinese refineries.

"The proponents of this project have compared the pipeline to the (Canadian Pacific Railway) and called it an important piece of Canadian infrastructure. But the Northern Gateway pipeline is a piece of Chinese infrastructure, not Canadian infrastructure," said McGowan.

"The ownership structure of the pipeline shows that the project will benefit China's state-owned oil companies, shipping good-paying oilsands jobs to Asia."

McGowan states the pipeline will create only 228 permanent jobs and 1,500 temporary construction jobs during a three year period. He also argues that the pipeline will drive up operating costs for Canadian refineries by more than $800 million.

The AFL is not opposed to selling oilsands product to lucrative Asian markets, says McGowan. Instead, McGowan favours refining bitumen in Alberta before selling it to foreign markets. The labour orgainization estimates that at least 26,000 Canadian jobs would be created if bitumen sold to China was refined in Alberta.

"If we want Cadillac prices for our resources, then we have to sell a Cadillac product," said McGowan.

"That means selling upgraded bitumen, called synthethic crude, rather than raw bitumen. Some country is going to capture the value and create the jobs. We think that country should be Canada, not China."

The AFL represents 160,000 Alberta workers, including 25,000 in energy and energy-related construction.

The Monday hearings were the final arguments to either supporting or denouncing the $6.5 billion pipeline that, if approved, will link the oilsands to the B.C. coast. From a port in Kitimat, bitumen will be loaded onto tankers heading to California and Asia, on the B.C. coast.

The largest hurdle is a coalition of aboriginal groups who argue they were poorly consulted by Enbridge, and that the pipeline will run through territory seen as culturally vital.

Enbridge and company supporters have spent approximately $500 million on environmental and engineering studies, as well as public and aboriginal consultations for the project. Enbridge also argues B.C.'s oil and gas industry could gain more than $18 billion in additional investments if the project is approved.

The joint review panel is expected to finish the hearings within two weeks and make a recommendation on the project's future to the federal government by Dec. 31.


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