Alberta Federation of Labour opposes Northern Gateway pipeline, wants refining jobs in Canada

The Alberta Federation of Labour is opposing construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat, British Columbia on the grounds that the construction jobs would only be "transitory," higher oil prices would result and jobs in refining would not be created in Canada.

AFL announced this week it is filing a third-party report, by economist Robyn Allan, as evidence to the federal panel currently considering Enbridge Inc.'s application to build the pipeline. If approved, the 1,150-kilometre Northern Gateway would take bitumen from Bruderheim, Alberta and send it to the port of Kitimat for export abroad. The project also proposes construction of an import condensate pipeline, terminal facilities and marine infrastructure in Kitimat.

A joint review panel established by the National Energy Board is holding hearings and AFL submitted Allan's report after NEB denied her intervenor status.

In its own submission, the Alberta Federation of Labour argues the pipeline would results in the loss of tens of thousands of potential jobs in upgrading, refining and petro-chemical production.

"Construction jobs would be 'transitory and migratory' lasting three to four years at the most," AFL argued.

The AFL release comes a week after the Director of Canadian Affairs for Building and Construction Trades Department (BCDT) of the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Robert Blakely, came out in support of Northern Gateway. At the time, Blakely stated he was encouraged by a promise by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the federal government would ensure energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary delays. At the time, Canadian Building Trades noted the jobs created by Northern Gateway would include those in permanent operations and maintenance, not only in construction.

Canadian Building Trades also supported TransCanada Corp.'s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to Texas. That application was denied by the United States Department of State but TransCanada plans to submit a new application.

Both Allan and the AFL agree the Northern Gateway would cause an increase in oil prices.

"The good news is that there is a way to avoid the price shock that Robyn talks about," AFL president Gil McGowan said of Allan's report in a press release. "By doing more upgrading and refining in Canada, we can make sure that Canadians keep much more of the value created by development within the country. And, by developing markets in eastern Canada instead of Asia, we can ensure that Alberta's growth isn't coming at the expense of growth in other provinces."

Allan was a Commissioner on the Barrett Commission of Inquiry into the Quality of Condominium Construction in British Columbia. She has also been President and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record, Thurs Feb 2 2012

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