A few weeks ago, we re-tweeted this article from BNN, where Alberta Premiere Jason Kenny justified his government’s actions to invest public funds to obtain an equity stake in the Keystone XL pipeline, and ultimately backstopping TC Energy’s construction of the project – going so far as to state that KXL would not have been built had the Alberta government not stepped up to the plate.
While such a statement might seem hyperbolic, as recently as February 13th during its Q4 2019 earnings call, TC Energy made statements alluding to the KXL’s risk profile, suggesting that if the balance between risk and reward failed to sync up that the project may continue to exist in limbo, even as the last few permits were falling into place. Clearly, the government of Alberta moving to provide support and assurance tipped those scales.
With these facts in mind, YPAC is supportive of the Government of Alberta’s decision to provide firm support to the KXL Project in the form of a direct equity investment and loan guarantees. The project will play an important role in the puzzle of the transition to a low-carbon future, and ensures Canada gets the best value for its resources while they remain in demand. While job creation and economic growth is one benefit, major infrastructure projects such as KXL provide income to the government through taxation and with the appropriate government policy in place, this project can also be a valuable tool to fund and incentivize initiatives which drive the transition to a secure, low-carbon future.
However, with that said, there is another piece to this puzzle which YPAC would like to consider further: such a significant policy cannot be viewed in isolation from other policy decisions made by the Government of Alberta. A robust, well-funded education system is critical to developing the educated and skilled workforce required to ensure the continued success of Canada’s world-leading pipeline and energy industries, and to drive the transition to a low-carbon future. We cannot ignore the stark contrast of providing $1.5 billion in direct investment to the energy industry with additional billions in support, while claiming the necessity of cutting hundreds of millions in funding for education and other core social services [ https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/budget-2020-alberta-1.5477615 ].
Enabling the education, innovation, and opportunities for advancement of young pipeliners is a key mission of YPAC, and we want to ensure that governments continue to invest in the next generation. Jason Kenny states that his KXL investment deal will “ultimately pay off for Alberta” but we question just how severely cuts to primary and secondary education will blunt this payoff.