Alberta’s precious resource gets a second look

By Jordyn Marcellus

The tarsands and the Alberta economy are inextricably linked. The more oil dredged up from the sands, the better off our province is economically. In this federal election, many political parties are focusing on the environmental concerns that are affecting the nation, which the oil plants up north and being built in Saskatchewan affect every day.

Companies working in the oilsands are criticized by environmental groups like the Pembina Institute for belching tremendous amounts of carbon and other chemicals into the air as well as consuming large volumes of water in the oil excavation process. Organizations like Greenpeace have suggested shutting down the tarsand projects entirely, saying the economic gains are not worth the severe environmental impact.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff, New Democratic Party candidate for Calgary-West, explained that his party believes that there can be job creation through environmental policies.

“One of the misconceptions with protecting our environment is that you can either have the environment or the economy, but not both,” he said. “With [the NDP’s] Green Collar Job program, we’re saying that we can both improve the economy and keep jobs. We’re going to need to retrofit things and innovate new transportation and energy technology. That’s where jobs are going to be coming from. We can create a whole new sector in our economy.”

Kirk Schmidt, an independent candidate, argued there is no need to shut down the oilsands. The government needs ways of cleaning up the extraction process itself, which will help lessen the current environmental damage.

“What we need to do is slow down the growth,” said Schmidt. “We can slow down the production, invest money into research and development and we can find cleaner ways of extracting that oil. Once we’ve found cleaner ways, which reduce the environmental damage or leave any at all, we can then re-establish increasing production.”

Green Party candidate Randy Weeks, an auditor for Canadian Natural Resources Limited, stressed his party is not opposed to the oilsands, but sees a need to broaden the Albertan economy.

“We are a one-trick pony economy,” said Weeks. “Right now, it’s oil. The conventional oil is going away and soon all that’s going to be left is the strip-mining in the oilsands. What we would like to do is take Alberta’s economic dependence on the oilsands and diversify that into other areas especially alternative energy and efficiency technologies.”

Pipeline construction worker Andre Vachon represents the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. He argued Canadian people are not receiving their fair share of oil revenue from the companies extracting resources from Canadian soil.

“The people of Canada should get to decide who gets the oil,” said Vachon. “There shouldn’t be deals behind closed doors, in boardrooms of the corporations or between heads of state. We’re not suggesting we should just shut down production in the tarsands or we should stop producing oil and gas. It’s part of the wealth of Canada and we should exploit it.”

Weeks emphasized that the oil patch is not going to go away and that the Albertan economy is in dire need of a breath of fresh air.

“Oil is a hugely important commodity that we simply cannot do without right now,” Weeks said. “[But the Green Party] does not want to leave Alberta’s economy entirely reliant on oilsands. We need to start nurturing other technologies, other businesses and significantly diversifying Alberta’s economy away from those oilsands.”

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