Thanks very much, Chair.
I guess depending on where you sit tonight, where I am on the political spectrum is sort of up to you guys. I'm either on the left of you folks or on the right of these guys.
Thank you for the invitation, and good evening, Chair, members of the committee, fellow witnesses, and guests. We're the Canadian building trades and we represent more than 550,000 skilled trades folks in every province and territory. It's my pleasure to come to you today and give you what I call a tip of the spear view of what natural resource extraction writ large means to regular people in Canada.
From here on in, if the committee will indulge me, I'm going to refer to the natural resources extraction and economic benefit title as “energy projects”, and that's where I'll focus my remarks today. I'm going to talk a little bit about what energy projects mean to job prospects, short- and long-term employment, and how energy projects make a difference right now in the skilled trades in Canada.
I've compiled information from some of our construction employers, companies small and large, who do energy project construction and maintenance work in every part of the country, and from the trades themselves, which actually do the work. Hopefully, when I'm finished you'll have an understanding of the importance of these energy assets to the Canadian economy.
I hope you'll see that energy projects or natural resource extraction, the economic benefits, should be considered as important to the national economy and to the communities you all represent around this table. They deserve serious consideration and rational debate on the future of Canada's place in the world. They deserve more than partisan attacks. They deserve more than blind obstructionism and sound bites by opponents. These endeavours have real world impacts for working people, their pay cheques, their jobs, and the food on their table.
We need a Canadian vision on this file. I usually have a quote in my presentations. I won't do that, but I think Alison Redford has it right in this case. If I were her advisor, I'd submit that an energy strategy, which she's pitching, should be coupled with a workforce strategy. This way, when the workforce is needed, when these projects move ahead, we'll have a rational undertaking in terms of workforce planning with some sort of energy plan.
Every energy project in this country, from North America's first commercial crude oil well, which in fact was opened in Ontario in 1858, just outside of Chatham, to the Suncors of the world, the Syncrudes of the world, the Imperial Oils of the world—these modern-day projects, and also the old ones, create an enormous amount of economic activity for every region of Canada.
Last week I visited a new $7 million training facility in Calgary, which is fully funded by building trades members and contractors, by the way. The Boilermakers Local 146 in Calgary has about 3,500 welders on their roster, and I took a look at their job lists. Contractors call us and provide us with jobs they're hiring for. Every call for a welder out of this local in Calgary was for an energy project, be it the new Enmax plant in Calgary, Shell's Albian Sands, or the small metal fab shop in Calgary South, which by the way is fabricating pressure vessels for oil sands facilities 16 hours a day, seven days a week. So every single call that this local union hall had was for an energy-related project. All this economic activity is derived from Alberta's energy project envelope.
The operations manager at this facility told me they had workers from across Canada, places like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and even the United States on travel cards through their local unions and their communities, to meet the demands of our contractors and some of the owner-partners at the table today.
At this office in Calgary they had 500 apprentices. These are people who are working their way through an apprenticeship program. It's a four-year program to be a welder in Alberta. This means young people are learning a skill and building a life on these projects.
This is a snapshot of what happens all across Canada. It's not unique to Calgary. Unions train and manage the mobile workforce through a hiring hall at no cost to Dave's members or Jayson's members.
That's a real life example. Let's talk overall numbers. We estimate that at any given time, out of our national membership, about 45% of our people are actively engaged in oil and gas in some way, be it the oil sands in Alberta, refineries in Sarnia, the Lower Churchill project in Newfoundland, building potash mines in Saskatchewan, or New Brunswick, or even a natural gas co-gen facility in any number of large cities across Canada.
You may have seen those massive electrical towers along the sides of highways. Construction workers install and maintain that infrastructure. These lines carry electricity, which in Ontario comes from nuclear power.
Uranium being another natural resource, I thought it was applicable to this committee. At Point Lepreau, in New Brunswick, more than 10,000 construction workers are on the job at AECL, upgrading the facility to pump power around the east coast so that the lights stay on. It's another example of natural resource extraction, or uranium.
The connections here are obvious in the energy industry. The energy economy means jobs, no matter how you slice it. For those of you who are on the natural resources committee, you would have heard this pitch before, but I want to talk pipelines for a minute. It seems a topic of heated debate in Canada and the U.S., and rightly so. These are pieces of infrastructure that mean 50 or 60 years on the production side of the resource extraction.
Before I talk a little bit about what that means, what exactly is a pipeline? To me, a pipeline just connects jobs. You put a product in, but at each end of the pipeline there are jobs being created. The uninformed think a pipeline is just a few short-term jobs, but they're wrong. In the oil sands, for example, petroleum—however we define petroleum—is extracted. It can't be stockpiled for very long, except in expensive tankage, and it has to move to the next stage in the process. The extraction jobs and initial processing at that end of the pipeline are 50-year jobs that last for as long as the line is being used. It then moves to an upgrader, where it's turned into synthetic crude. A huge number of high-paying, skilled jobs are found here. They are also 50-year jobs. And there are more maintenance and operation jobs created over the lifetime of the plant than there ever were constructing it.
By the way—and, Dave, correct me if I'm wrong—currently Alberta upgrades about two-thirds of its own bitumen. The Keystone Pipeline will not send this stuff from Alberta. It's new production, and Keystone will continue to upgrade most of the extracted material in Alberta.
Then the synthetic crude moves to a refinery, where it becomes products. The same equation is present in terms of refinery jobs: sustaining construction, operations, maintenance—those are 50-year jobs.
The pipeline links those jobs together—both ends of the pipeline. If there's no pipeline, those other high-paying, high-skilled, and challenging jobs don't exist. The pipeline moves both the oil and the jobs down the line to the end user. Some of the finished product, after you refine it, then moves in other pipelines back to market.
There are really four major construction activities and four major skilled trades involved in pipelines: heavy equipment, sideboom operators, backhoe operators, pressure welders, etc. I think you guys get the point that these are complex projects.
I ran some numbers for the Northern Gateway pipeline. I know we've been talking about that one in the public domain. There are probably about 2,700 direct jobs for three construction seasons with just the installation of the pipe. Total jobs for a $6 billion project are in the 12,000 mark right off the bat.
I wanted to mention to the committee that of the four pipeline jobs that are currently being worked in northern Alberta today—we call them pipeline spreads in the industry—there were a total of 2,633 employees at the end of March working on these things, and 811 of them were from outside Alberta. This gives you a really good idea of the national scope of some of these projects. It's roughly the same percentage found inside the extraction, the upgrading, and the refining plants. At the end of the day, the energy jobs are not merely Alberta jobs; they're Canadian jobs.
The payroll—I pulled some numbers just for interest, and don't tell anyone I got these—for the four spreads for a week was about six million bucks. So you can see the link.
I'm getting the hook here.
I just want to talk quickly about apprentices. We represent about 25,000 apprentices in Alberta. Every year about 40,000 construction apprentices move through the training system in some way across the country.
If it's not welding pipes at an oil sands plant, or doing concrete, or excavation at Kearl Lake, it's about office towers in Calgary, and everything else, if it's associated with those kinds of builds.
The last thing I want to talk about is the diversification of markets. I think if Canada is serious about moving down the continuum of a developed country, we need to seriously consider diversifying our market beyond the United States. Gateway would give Canada another market for our oil and would not have us beholden to oil politics south of the border. Our natural resource pricing isn't dependent on one customer. Maybe we reverse the pipe from Alberta to Sarnia. It could be good for jobs.
There's been some discussion in the media on the regulatory system surrounding these types of projects, and that's what we're here talking about today. The position of our organization is that we support changes to the system to facilitate large projects, though not at the expense of safety or an environmental review, I think we would all agree.