What’s missing from the Keystone XL construction announcement

Earlier this week, Michels Canada announced that TC Energy had selected it to construct 260 km worth of the Alberta portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. I want to address a few things in the announcement.

Earlier this week, Michels Canada, a large construction firm, announced that TC Energy had selected it to construct 260 kilometres worth of the Alberta portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

There are a few things in the announcement that I want to address.

First, the company claims that it will hire 2,000 workers to work on the project. While that’s significant, we must remember that construction jobs are unique in that they are project-based. Construction workers work on one project, and when that project is complete, they move onto a new project.

The hiring of construction workers isn’t so much the creation of jobs but the moving around of workers. Sure, there might be some new workers hired on to this job, but I’m willing to bet that the majority are wrapping up construction on other projects and will simply transition to this one once they’re done.

This brings me to my second point. In a response to the announcement, Alberta premier, Jason Kenney, issued his own announcement. Kenney said that the pipeline “will support 17,000 Canadian workers”.

It’s not clear whether these are construction workers, workers employed in connection with the pipeline after construction, or both. Regardless, let’s remember that between July—when the government introduced their Job Creation Tax Cut—and February, Alberta had a net loss of 52,600 full-time jobs.

Assuming these 17,000 Canadian workers—or even 19,000 if the construction crews area additional—are all new jobs, we’ll still be short 35,600 full-time jobs—33,600 if the 2,000 construction jobs are extra. And that’s not even accounting for the hundreds of thousands of full-time jobs lost during the pandemic.

The third point I want to address is Michels’ claim that the pipeline will generate $7 million in property tax revenue in its first year of services. Assuming that’s true, how much of that will the province see? Or will it all go to the rural municipalities and counties it traverses?

The provincial announcement claims that it will generate $30 billion in revenue, but that’s federal and provincial revenue combined. Is that for the entire lifespan of the pipeline? Is that tax revenue generated directly from the pipeline, or does it include a bunch of indirect businesses?

Because there’s a huge difference between $7 million in 1 year and $30 billion, and it’d be nice to know how we get from one to the other.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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