'We are used to it': Town of Hardisty epitomizes Alberta's Keystone XL helplessness
EDMONTON -- For Hardisty, Alta., the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is just the latest low on the oil and gas roller coaster, an unstable ride to which the town is bound.
Nearly 10 months ago, the town, which was supposed to be the starting point of 2,735-kilometre pipeline, was on a high.
On March 31, 2020, Alberta announced it was investing $1.5-billion in the $8-billion U.S. project, creating approximately 2,000 construction jobs in the area.
But that work, due to decisions far beyond the control of anyone in Hardisty, has been halted.
On Thursday, the day after newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking KXL’s permit, pipeline owner TC Energy announced plans to eliminate 1,000 jobs.
The mayor of Hardisty estimated KXL construction brought 600 workers to the area.
“It’s quite upsetting, but not a lot Hardisty can do,” said Douglas Irving.
There is not a lot Alberta can do either.
Premier Jason Kenney has publicly urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to communicate the importance of the project to Canada’s energy sector to Biden at the earliest opportunity.
“If, however, the U.S. government refuses to open the door to a constructive and respectful dialogue about these issues then it is clear that the Government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions to defend our country's vital economic interests,” Kenney said at a press conference Wednesday.
Trudeau released a statement of his own Wednesday, saying Canada championed for the project and "made its case to high-level American officials" last November.
Biden and Trudeau are scheduled to speak on Friday.
Eugene Beaulieu, an economics professor specializing in international trade at University of Calgary, says retaliating against the U.S. for KXL is not the right strategy because America didn’t break any rules.
“Given the relative size of the two economies, that’s not going to be a winning proposition for Canada,” said Beaulieu.
“The best option right now is to realize (Biden) has done this and he’s not going to change his mind, and to find a way to work with the new president in ways that are going to advance the energy sector in Canada,” he said.
Political commentator Janet Brown said tough talk from Kenney may appeal to people whose jobs are directly impacted by Biden’s executive order, but the strategy is unlikely to change anything.
“Alberta is a pretty small province. We represent about one per cent of the population of North America. Biden has big things on his plate right now, and the idea that we have a financial ownership in the pipeline, it would somehow change his decision, I don’t think that was a very good calculation,” said Brown.
Back in Hardisty, the situation is similar to how it has been for most of the past five years, after the Obama administration pulled the plug on KXL.
“Lots (of pipeline projects) have been postponed, some have been cancelled,” said Irving.
“I think we just have to stay positive that it will eventually get sorted and the permit might be granted again someday.”