By Cole Parkinson
With a variety of issues happening at the federal level, the Municipal District of Taber council were given a firsthand account of what may be coming down very soon.
During council’s regular meeting on September 11, Bow River MP Martin Shields touched on a number of issues that Canadians are dealing with.
One of the biggest issues that has been dominating talks has been the North America Free Trade Agreement and whether or not Canada will be included.
While it may not be something that will severely affect every part of the M.D. of Taber, there are certain aspects that could see some negative outcomes.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in a sense of what NAFTA brings out there. Whether it affects you directly or not, it’s in the news every day. Trump is an interesting character that keeps the media alive and he loves it but they pay attention to him so he keeps that circulating. This is a piece that may not affect you directly but on the other hand, it may,” said Shields who also highlighted the sugar beet industry as one that may be put forward for the agreement. “It’s a tiny piece. I met with the sugar guys here and they are very concerned because they know it’s a minor piece and they are afraid it could get thrown on the table and traded away as a leverage piece.”
While they’ve heard some rumbles of the sugar industry being included, they were not entirely sure what that could mean going forward.
“We’re not hearing anything specific to it but we are very leery of the possibility it could be there but we don’t know it. We know Trump is looking for small wins but he can say they got a win. We hear the big one is supply management with the sunset clause, with the auto sector,” added Shields.
While NAFTA continues to dominate countrywide concerns, in Alberta the carbon tax is still being brought up quite frequently.
With the M.D. of Taber looked at as a major agriculture centre, Shields touched on how much impact is being felt in the ag sector.
Right now, the tax is at $30 a tonne and Shields says it can be a heavy burden on farmers.
“That’s a huge hit in the sense of rural agriculture and a direct hit in the sense of if you run a farming operation, you have diesel in your machine and the bigger the operation, the bigger direct cost.”
“You can be anywhere $10,000 to $20,000 that could affect you on a $30 carbon tax. The ag sector is going to face that cost as an input cost as well as the other costs that come subsidiary to it on a carbon tax,” he explained.
He also pointed out that even if people don’t know it, the carbon tax is affecting them too.
“The other side that people don’t pay much attention to, it got a little bit of play in the Calgary School Board, is issues with busing. People don’t understand that everyone is getting hit by the carbon tax, it hit the school systems but people don’t understand that it’s happening,” he explained. “Premier (Rachel Notley) has said we aren’t going past $30 but $30 is a hit now and that hurts.”
Shifting from the carbon tax, Shields went on to discuss the ongoing process with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that was purchased by the Canadian government for $4.5 billion this year.
“So what happens with Kinder Morgan? It’s another one of uncertainty. In Alberta, it is a significant one. The oil sector in Calgary, there is 30 per cent vacancy in downtown Calgary and they’re re-negotiating their space lease because they will probably reduce it by 60 to 70 per cent where they are at,” said Shields, and he also stated he believes the Alberta capital will soon see a downturn with the delay. “The Kinder Morgan will hurt Edmonton because there was a lot of contracting based out of Edmonton by Kinder Morgan. The downturn that has been faced in Calgary the last three or four years hasn’t effected Edmonton as directly as the oil sands are still working on finishing projects up there. But shutting down Kinder Morgan will have a more direct impact to Edmonton.”
After the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government’s approval of the expansion Trans Mountain project cited due to they did sufficiently fulfill their duties to consult local First Nations groups or the effect of increased marine traffic on local wildlife, the project has come to a halt. With this in mind, Shields noted the government should have got started on the project much earlier but failed to do so which resulted in a further delay.
“We believe the Liberals could have been with Kinder Morgan a long time ago, a year and a half to two years, and they could have been taking action to facilitate a private company to get that thing done. They didn’t do it, they bought an old pipeline and now a decision has been made, what are they going to do?” he asked. “They could have proceeded in a number of different ways. They could have said ‘we’re going to appeal this’, now an appeal process in the Supreme Court is risky and it would take a year and a half to two years but they could have said they would do it. They could have also said ‘we’re going to start a consultation process as the court ruled on both the indigenous and on the water.’ They could have said that immediately but they are still saying nothing.”
The downturn in the oil sector has been steady throughout the past few years and the further delay in the Kinder Morgan project has people on edge, according to Shields. Both the banks and smaller oil companies have taken notice and with further delays projected for the project, a lot of companies are left in limbo until something concrete comes.
“The junior oil companies in Alberta are now speaking up and saying ‘we’ve been able to sort of get by, but if this continues, the banks will not let us continue lending us money.’ This has put Alberta in a real quandary of risk in the sense of oil, gas and resource development,” added Shields.
Kinder Morgan has also reportedly started moving towards facilitating a sell-off of their Canadian portion of the business and the reports are suggesting they may see as much as $2.4 billion if they decided to move forward.
While that has yet to be seen, Shields is adamant the Canadian government needs to work starting construction.
“We need to get Kinder Morgan going. The financial world needs to see that we can develop in this country.”