PIPELINE – Steel workers could lose their jobs if Trans Mountain project fails

B.C. still exports coal because to do otherwise would be to kill jobs in the province. The contrast with its pipeline stance is startling

Research Associate
Frontier Centre for Public Policy

MANY OPPONENTS of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion justify their opposition by citing concerns about climate change and carbon emissions, but this raises some important questions.

James Armstrong.

What about coal? Vancouver is North America’s largest exporter of coal, one-third of it thermal coal for generating electricity. Vancouver exports U.S. coal because Oregon and Washington have stopped coal exports as a result of environmental concerns.

In 2012, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver wrote that “global warming from coal [is] worse than oil sands.” If this is true, why doesn’t B.C. stop all coal exports?

Of course, coal exports earn billions of dollars and stopping them would destroy B.C. jobs. But what about the Alberta jobs that B.C. is destroying by blocking Alberta’s access to tidewater? If stopping carbon emissions is so vital, then why should other provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan make virtually all the sacrifices to achieve this goal?

The EVRAZ steel plant in Regina has been contracted to supply 800 kilometres of pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline. EVRAZ steel workers are worried about losing their jobs if the pipeline is cancelled. Regina’s steel mill employs more than 1,000 workers who earn $112 million in total annually – money that supports the local economy. In the words of the union’s local secretary, “It’s our livelihood. It’s our kids’ ballet lessons; it’s our kids’ hockey practice.”

The steel mill was created in the 1950s by NDP Premier Tommy Douglas. In October 1950, Douglas celebrated the opening of a pipeline from Edmonton to Regina, saying it would give Saskatchewan access to affordable oil for economic growth.

Ironically, as pipeline opponents talked about an “expected slowdown in oil demand,” a recent CBC headline read, “Oil patch leaders wait desperately to ship more crude by rail with pipelines maxed out.” Shipping oil by rail is more costly and dangerous (as the Lac-Megantic, Que., disaster proved).

Using railways to ship oil also prevents railways from transporting other commodities like Saskatchewan-grown lentils to overseas markets. Lentils are protein-rich and are celebrated by environmentalists as an alternative to meat production.

Opponents talk about how the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion threatens Canada’s climate change efforts and commitments under the Paris accord. Why then are these opponents not organizing protests at the Chinese consulate because China is responsible for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions?

A July 1, 2017, New York Times article reports that China is building more than 700 coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries like Egypt and Pakistan that today burn little or no coal. Environmentalists like the Berlin-based group Urgewald warn that these new coal plants will make it virtually impossible to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord.

Canada accounts for only about 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a fact that led National Post columnist Andrew Coyne to say in a Nov. 30, 2015, article, “As far as the future temperature of the Earth is concerned, Canada is irrelevant. …”

Of course, Canada should try to adopt policies that don’t harm the environment. But in so doing, should we not avoid policies that make us economically uncompetitive and destroy jobs? Lack of access to tidewater for our oil costs Canada about $15 billion annually.

Even while B.C. Premier John Horgan leads opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, B.C.’s capital city, Victoria, is in a building boom, with construction equipment and concrete trucks everywhere. These machines don’t run on wind, solar or battery power. They run on fossil fuels, as do all important vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, airplanes and farm tractors that till the soil.

Why can’t protesters see that opposing new pipelines hamstrings our economy and threatens our future? Does B.C. really mean Beyond Canada?

James Armstrong is retired Saskatchewan teacher and research associate for Frontier Centre for Public Policy currently living on Vancouver Island.

© Troy Media


5 Comments on PIPELINE – Steel workers could lose their jobs if Trans Mountain project fails

  1. As the planet suffers more harm because of climate change more and more people will be affected and steel workers may just become an inconspicuous side note.
    On the other hand the opportunities for a changing paradigm on energy usage may present itself as a great opportunity to many others.

  2. Tony Brumell // June 24, 2018 at 7:21 PM // Reply

    I have recently been truly staggered by studies of emissions from theses monster tankers.One tanker burning 200 tonnes of bunker “C” oil emits as much as one million ICE’s’#00 new tankers in the Salish sea per year ? Ergo emissions equivalent to 300 million vehicles in all of
    Canada.Where is the trade off ???? There isn’t one .And we eventually end up killing off all of the Orcas. and maybe destroying our biggest source of clean drinking water.. I ask again Where the hell is the trade off >?????

  3. Glen Cairns // June 24, 2018 at 6:24 PM // Reply

    Your headline is alarmist and misleading. Just take a drive down to Mission Flats Road and stop at the Kinder Morgan Train/Truck Transfer site where the steel for the pipeline is currently being offloaded, sorted and stored. The steel is all manufactured by Jindal Steel in New Delhi, and has been imported specifically for the pipeline expansion. This stuff is not being made in Regina or Hamilton, it is being made in India. There won’t be any loss of Canadian steelworker jobs, because there were never going to be any Canadian steelworker jobs. This pipeline is a complete and utter fiasco. Jobs, jobs, jobs, and I’ve got some cheap swampland to sell you down in Florida.
    Glen Cairns, Kamloops, BC

  4. Ian MacKenzie // June 24, 2018 at 3:05 PM // Reply

    As much as I must admit the Mr. Armstrong has identified some of the conflicts of our social behaviour, I must emphasize that the human species is a specialist at paradox. We are often found on both sides of the coin looking in opposite directions and eternally conflicted. I suppose the answer to so many of his questions in the above piece can only be, “Because we may influence our own people’s decisions, while those made by citizens and governments of other countries are beyond our reach.”
    As for the irrelevance of Canada’s emissions in the global warming scene (a statement we could argue about even though Andrew Coyne made it) I think he has unfortunately ignored the high degree of relevance that Canada has made on other issues admired by the world, such as peace keeping (although of late we seem to be showing an uncharacteristic belligerence in certain conflicts, another example of the two-sided coin). I suppose, because of our history, we find ourselves on the cross of sacrifice far too often, and at any given moment choosing heads on Sunday and tails on Monday.

  5. I do agree on some points, but find the place they are doing it from is difficult. The ships will have to be smaller, they have to navigate difficult waters. I would think the feds would force shippers to Canadian pilots at the 200 limit. And take many more steps to improve navigation within the “inter island” waters. I see no reason they allow Americans to run barges up the inner passage. But even if they don’t the feds don’t bother to equip our coast guard with anything. This was all cut to ribbons by Harper. And the kid hasn’t stepped up to improve the situation.
    It does no one any good if they put in a safer way to transport to the sea, but forget the most dangerous part….the sea! International shippers don’t register with valid countries, or follow proper rules. Allowing the morons into our waters without adherence to standards….kinda stupid. So no, not until they step up to a higher standard….

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