At a recent international engineering conference in Calgary, Peter Lougheed observed that the rapid growth of oil sands development over the last decade resulted in a high-cost economy in Alberta. He recommended that future oil sands mining be limited to one project at a time. Since Premier Stelmach has a dearth of talent and wisdom in his caucus, he would do well to take the advice of this elder statesman.
Stelmach should remember the state of affairs in Alberta before the recession and downturn in oil and gas prices. House prices and rents sky-rocketed, so that average income families could no longer afford to buy homes and low-income Albertans could not afford to pay their rents. Alberta had the highest rate of inflation in Canada which meant Albertans were paying more for almost everything but particularly for food, clothing, utilities and property taxes.
Because of the high demand for personnel to build and service the many oil sands plants, there was a shortage of workers in other sectors of the economy. Small business owners had an especially difficult time recruiting personnel and paying them the inflated wages that they expected.
It would be a shame if the government allowed this to happen again when oil and gas prices rebound. Oil sands projects should be developed serially rather than in parallel. Each project should provide for the upgrading of its bitumen to synthetic crude within Alberta. This pace of development could be handled by Alberta’s current labour force without an influx of outsiders causing a strain on our services and infrastructure.