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Friday, August 24, 2007

Workforce Concerns Hit Alberta Oil Patch

The following appeared in today's Edmonton Journal.

Interestingly it seems this week's Hebron announcement has begun to stir some level of concern out west.

Newfoundland fog rolls over oilsands

The Rock hopes Hebron oil brings its people home -- but Albertans say it's too soon to tell
Jamie Hall, The Edmonton JournalPublished: 2:20 am

EDMONTON - Newfoundland's natural resources minister says the billion-dollar Hebron offshore oil project will lure thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who now live and work in Alberta back home to the Rock.

"(They're) like homing pigeons," insisted Kathy Dunderdale in an interview Thursday. "They want to come home."

Newfoundland-Labrador Premier Danny Williams said this week's deal, to develop the $6-billion Hebron Ben Nevis heavy-oil project, means the province can finally take meaningful ownership of its resources and pave the way for the return of residents forced to leave to look for work.

But an Alberta economist says it's too soon to know what impact the deal will have on either province. "There may be effects (to Alberta's economy) in the long run," says Todd Hirsch, a senior economist with ATB Financial.

But Hebron won't start producing oil until after 2010, so the impact on Newfoundland will be medium- to long-term, he adds.

Also, when the jobs do arrive, they will be very different than those in Alberta's oilsands, where many Newfoundlanders currently work.

"Offshore drilling is a much different type of technology and infrastructure than the oilsands," Hirsch says. "(Many) of those skills might be transferable, but a lot of them aren't going to be."
"And," Hirsch adds, "the oilsands are far more labour intensive; that's why you need so many workers."

Oilsands giant Suncor, for instance, employs 6,000 people company-wide, 4,000 of them in Fort McMurray, and a "significant number" hail from Newfoundland, says spokesman Brad Bellows.
Like Hirsch, Bellows says it's too soon to know if the Hebron project will take a bite out of Suncor's workforce.

"There may be some movement," Bellows says. "We'll have to wait and see.

"There's always competition for jobs and there are always a lot of opportunities for skilled workers, and not just in the oilsands.

"But we feel we are the employer of choice for a lot of employees, and we plan to keep it that way."

Another major oilsands player, Syncrude, offers similar sentiments.

"Having a qualified and skilled workforce is key to maintaining solid operations at Fort McMurray," says spokeswoman Kara Flynn, "and we're committed to ensuring that we provide an attractive situation for employees and potential employees. We would do that regardless of what market conditions were."

If Dunderdale has her way, Albertans will soon be flocking to Newfoundland to take advantage of the prosperity resulting from Hebron and myriad other projects Premier Danny Williams' government has been developing in the past couple of years.

"Our challenge all along has been to try and organize these projects in a way that we will have long-term, sustainable employment," Dunderdale said, "and I think we've done that.

"Alberta has been so generous to the people of our province who have come there, and it's a wonderful time in our development where we can extend an invitation and provide opportunities for people in other provinces."

When Williams toured the oilsands in Fort McMurray earlier this year, he met with Newfoundlanders and talked at length about the eastern province's "changing economy" and the "opportunities that are on the horizon."

Hirsch says Alberta needs to create an environment for workers who will remain "attached," regardless of opportunities elsewhere, whether they're from Newfoundland or elsewhere in the country.

"For too long, Alberta has been looked at as the bank machine of the country because of its boom-and-bust cycle," Hirsch says. "People come in, they get their money and get out.
"We need to create a province that, even if things moderate, people won't pick up and leave at the first job offer from back home. We'd like to keep them."


Ussr said...

Another Fine Article Patriot!!!

" First Post ,I Win Again."

I called home last night asking dear old Dad ,how much a Lot of property is going for in Conception Bay South.He told me that i could have a house built ,like his ,for around 168,000.00.But,he stated that I should buy a older home and then renovate it to what i want.

This is what i love about my people.The slow simple way of life that our culture bestows upon us.

Dear ol'dad doesnt relise that my home in Ontario is paid for ,and market value is just over half a million.

I am in year four of my five year plan to get home.I long for the sea air ,my people and a better way of life.Hebron,has just put a litle bur in this cowboys saddle.

Watch out Newfoundland and Labrador ,sometimes in life you get what you ask for,and sometimes its not all that great.

I ll see you in St Johns Patriot,at the Newfoundland Shop.My Basement and rec room are going to be done with Paintings from Newfoundland and Labrador Artists. ;) Say Hi to Charles for me Please.

Patriot said...

I'm glad to hear about you 5 year plan and nobody would be happier than me to see as many NLers (who want to come home) do that.

I look forward to meeting you and taking a look at your NL art.

By the way, who is Charles?

Patriot said...

To USSR: Regarding your most recent comment. Since it is off topic for this thread I opted not to post the link you sent.

Since the site you sent along has some very interesting information on NL and is a company promoting local artwork I decided instead to add it to my links on the left side of the page (under NL Specific Links).

Thanks for sending it along.

Blogerwoman said...

Patriot I have always enjoyed your blog entries, they are of professional journalism class, but I am starting to wonder why are you posting answers instead what would be comments by your readers to your blog entry?

Please do not tell me that some of the lobbyists who, no doubt, were acting on behalf of Big Industry and Big Governments and God only knows who else are corrupting your blog to the point where you no longer feel liable to post people's comments. If so your blogsite has been completely corrupted and DISABLED by these people, who sole purpose is to shut up people like you.

You know patriot these types of which I speak in a general term, without names, are the people who have kept Newfoundland and Labrador in an impoverished state since the beginning, the type of people who would act as lobbyists against their own people and their actions only benefit Big Industry, Big Governments and THEMSELVES (otherwise known as the 'ME SYNDROME)'.

If that is the reason you are forced into conducting matters the way that you are doing them now, well then we have been snookered again, no differently than we have been for the past 58 years and before.

There is no end to what people will do to become powerful themselves while shafting the rest of us. Sorry I had to write this comment, but I think if these continue to exist solely because patronage exists in Big Industry and Big Governments, and elsewhere, we are doomed to the repitition of everything that has gone on in the past. I think the Orange Revolution has to commence and force everything to the forefront so that it can be dealt with in an orderly fashion.

Patronage in Government and Big Industry must come to an end. It is the worse form of CORRUPTION which puts 96 per cent of the WEALTH and PROFITS of industry into 4 per cent of the hands of the industralists, while 96 per cent of the world's population barely eke out a living. When are we going to stand up and have our hands shown for Honest Governance of both Governments and Industry?

Patriot said...

No Blogerwoman, I was not influenced by the "bought off" among us. I was instead sick and tired of a wave of comments with no other contribution to the discussion than to:

Intimidate others,
Side track topics,
Abuse verbally
Disclose personal information about writers

and so on

That goes for those on all sides of the issues.

It had reached a point where the level of discussion/debate had sunk to little more than personal attacks and that is nothing but a waste of my time and the time of those stopping by to read the content of this site.

While it means a little more work on my part to go through the posts and pre-read them before deciding on the content (much like a newspaper would do with a letter to the editor) it's well worth it if it can filter out the crap (excuse the language)

I'm glad you posed the question you did and I was more than happy to answer it.

Blogerwoman said...

Thank You very much Patriot for taking the time to answer! But your comment does not preclude that some have been bought off and they make it very difficult for most of us to make a living out of the resources that we have been endowed with in this province when they go against what is right and proper for all of the people of an area. Why else would some of your commenters been taking the side of the Big Oil and the Federal Government both of which were pooh-poohing the idea of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador taking equity in our Oil resources? Of coure, it was self-interest!

Both Big Oil and the Federal Government have come full circle and have agreed with Premier Williams' stance and those of us who were backing him up in his quest for equity in saying that this place offers security as good as any Oil jurisdiction on this planet. We have heard of so many oil workers taken hostage for money in the African Oil Patch; and countries like Venezuela which completely nationalized its Oil Reserves and as a result Exxon and Chevron pulling up stake and abandoning that country completely. Both of these large Corporations know they need to have reserves on their books if they are to remain viable entities, and what better place than Newfoundland and Labrador where there can be granted both security and a stable government that they can operate under? Big Oil knows what it has to do, it is not stupid. It also knows when it has time on it hands to negotiate a better deal for their side. They were stalling in a time when there was enough Oil on their plates and they were quite aware of the slowdown that was about to happening and is already happening right now in the United States economy, the economy that drives the Global economy. How long that slow down will last nobody knows, but it is inevitable since nothing soars for ever? Everything that goes up must come down, since who would be able to afford anything if the market went up and up and up forever? Up and down are both components of the cycles of economics.