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Aalbers champions local interests with Senate committee

Mayor Gerald Aalbers made the city’s case to a Senate committee on the embattled Bill C-48 and C-69 earlier this month. The former, dubbed by many the “tanker ban bill”, and the latter often called the “no more pipelines bill”, hold regulatory weight on the future of Canadian energy projects.

Aalbers had discussed with Saskatchewan energy minister Bronwyn Eyre bringing the Senate to Lloydminster to hear how this bill would impact the city. When invited to speak with the Senate committee reviewing the bill, city council advised him to represent the city. Aalbers says that the bills pose a threat to one of the regions primary economic drivers.

“In both cases, they have very dramatic impacts to our city. Certainly, oil and gas and agriculture play the two major drives, as well as the retail that follows it.

“The potential actions of those bills, or the potential consequences of those bills, it could lead to some drastic issues going forward for oil and gas development,” says Aalbers.

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Aalbers reached out to a number of neighbouring municipalities affected by these pieces of legislation, from Saskatchewan municipalities all the way towards Lac La Biche and Fort McMurray. In his outreach, Aalbers says he discovered some startling statistics; Lac La Biche has seen a 22 per cent population since the last census, and many family businesses have failed since the downturn for oil and gas. Aalbers

While we have no control over commodity prices and the differentials they’re subject to, getting a product to market can help. Aalbers says that our only customer, the United States, has not been excited about purchasing our oil for the right price. Aalbers believes that tanker bans and overhauled environmental assessments will only further hurt the oil and gas industry and in turn hurt the country.

“Those are the kind of examples we shared with the Senate, saying, we need to get world price for our oil, wherever we send it. Because if we don’t we’re leaving money behind, and that’s the money that funds roads, hospitals, schools, that funds this municipality and every municipality in Canada.”

Aalbers believes his message was well received but is unsure where it will take the bill. He was invited by the senator for British Columbia to visit Kitimat and Terrance, B.C., to share perspectives with the locals. With each other’s contact information, Aalbers may take him up on that, to help alleviate the concerns many locals may have around pipeline projects.

“We know pipelines are safe; we live with them every day here. But for those folks, they’re not familiar with pipelines, but they do count on fishing. We need to reassure them and let them know that we do care, but we also need to express the concerns we have. Just as forestry went through difficult times in B.C., we have difficult times for oil and gas in Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

The respective Senate committees for Bills C-69 and C-48 are expected to table amendments for them this week.

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