With the stroke of a pen last week, the fortunes of many in the region are beginning to look up.
U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 24 that essentially gives approval for the Keystone XL pipeline to be completed, something both the Alberta government and the Wildrose opposition have welcomed.
Keystone XL presently originates at a facility near Hardisty, located in the heart of the Battle River-Wainwright riding represented by the Wildrose Party, and the continuation of the pipeline to refineries in Texas could mean more construction and operational jobs. That would be a boon for the area and help keep young people and families in rural Alberta.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, in a press conference just hours after the approval was signed, said the move is a positive step forward and good news for the province, for industry, for workers and for the economy.
“Our government’s focus has always been on support for maintaining jobs and diversifying the economy and we do that by not having just one customer, by having more control on our energy future and getting our oil to tidewater,” Notley stated.
“This approval is a better deal for our oil and comes as welcome news. At the end of the day, Alberta will have access to diverse markets and to good jobs.”
Meanwhile, Wildrose Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr applauded news of the announcement.
“It’s good news for Alberta, but better news would be more pipelines to tidewater. Although, I’m not complaining,” Orr said in an interview earlier this week.
“While there are still some issues, it’s a positive that the new administration approved it. I believe those issues can be resolved by tthe parties and honestly find reasonable solutions that are fair to all.”
In the end, Orr feels the pipeline will move ahead, but that oil prices will remain at current levels.
“There has been a bit of an uptick in prices, not euphoric and not at the peaks from several years ago, but we don’t need that either,” he said, citing prices at the pump are high enough now.
“The main thing that needs to change is policies supporting Albertans and industry and not ideologies.”
Now, while the announcement approves the pipeline, the executive order adds that the U.S. wants to renegotiate some of the terms in the previous proposal before actually allowing construction to move ahead. At the press conference, Notley was quizzed by the media about what that may mean as well as why the NDP seems to have changed direction on the pipeline.
“We need to closely monitor the situation regarding those terms and what is meant by renegotiation,” she said.
“The situation had also changed, as back then oil was $100 a barrel. This will help spur jobs and investment in our economy, but we need to see full approval and shovels in the ground.”
Notley added that while Keystone XL is a good first step, there is an understanding that the strategic importance of Canadian tidewater access remains a top priority for Alberta.
“It will help raise the price of oil, bring back jobs and investment and give us the ability to diversify our business and ship at a better price. It’s also not about increasing extraction, since the oilsands was based on a 40 to 50 year plan. This will lower the cost of transportation, which in turn will provide greater returns and profits for Alberta.”
The Premier also noted that the Energy East pipeline and other potential projects for exporting Alberta oil, especially to Asian markets, remain a priority for the government.