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Newspaper article

Boom's deadly toll

Date

2007-04-27

Authors

Neil Waugh

Abstract

Two Chinese workers died in an accident on the construction site of an oilsands company, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Horizon. This is because of the Alberta Tories' botched and deadly policy about migrant temporary workers. The government doesn't seem to care about this accident and the other parties don't seem to ask the right questions.

Newspaper title

The Edmonton Sun

Page numbers

62 (Business)

Place published

Edmonton

Full text

The blood spilled and the body count wasn't as high as in the tragic Diversified 690 bus crash. Thank God for that. But the cause of the death of two Chinese temporary foreign workers at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s Horizon oilsands plant this week can be traced back to same source.

And that's the Alberta Tories' botched - and now extremely deadly - oilsands policy, which triggered a massive oilsands building boom without first putting in place the necessary infrastructure.

The Tories then conspired with the developers to tear up the labour peace treaty that ruled the oilsands for more than a decade.

There followed the airlift of cheap foreign workers, while thousands of Alberta tradesmen and women sit on union dispatch lists.

The collapse of the tank roof structure that killed Genbao Ge and Hong Liang Liu and injured four others working for the Chinese-government-owned contractor was the culmination of this goofy policy.

It's the same one that allows oilsands developers to pay a penny-on-the-dollar royalty until the multi-billion-buck plants are paid out, while at the same time shipping raw bitumen and jobs down the pipeline to Illinois and Texas and leaving behind irreparable environmental damage in the pristine boreal bush north of Fort McMurray.

It wasn't until after the bus crash that killed six construction workers on the Syncrude job that the Alberta PCs finally admitted that Highway 63 was fundamentally dangerous. And they're now playing a desperate game of catch-up to twin the major route to the oilsands.

But only last week, Finance Minister Lyle Oberg was bragging in his budget speech about more offshore workers coming in.

"We will develop an immigration strategy to encourage more skilled workers to come to Alberta." Oberg boomed. Well, how do you like your strategy now, Lyle?

And just how panicked the Stelmach government is to control the damage and deflect the blame has been clearly evident since Tuesday's tragedy.

A limited internal investigation by government bureaucrats - and no public report, but simply a handover to the dubious Alberta Justice Department, which already has the worst record in Canada on bringing boardroom bad guys to justice. (They've yet to get the trucker who crashed into Bus 690 into court - an accident that happened way back on May 20, 2005).

WORKER ERROR

Meanwhile, CNRL is being allowed to do a parallel "full investigation" of the incident, where worker error will be the inevitable conclusion.

Heck, Employment Minister Iris Evans didn't even bother to issue a press release acknowledging the latest oilpatch accident even happened.

It doesn't help that the leftis are so bound up in their ideological straitjackets that they refuse to acknowledge the big picture. Both the NDP and Liberals are focusing on foreign worker safety rather than asking why the Chinese tank builders were here in the first place. Especially when there are thousands of Canadians out of work.

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan decided to bypass the locals and demanded federal Immigration Minister Monte Solberg call a public inquiry.

"A large number of questions arise about why this accident happened," McGowan snapped.

Save your breath Gil. Yesterday the Harper government drank the Kyoto Kool-Aid and sold out the Alberta construction trades.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers business manager Tim Brower has a different take on the Horizon horror.

He also want a full and public report because of his suspicions that CNRL is trying to cover something up.

IBEW local 424 currently has 2,850 journeymen and 750 ready-for-work apprentices on the books.

"My members are destitute right now," Brower sighed.

He isn't about to wait for Stelmach and Evans and plans on taking the message to CNRL brass as early as next week at the company's annual meeting. He plans to grill CNRL president Steve Laut, in his capacity as pension fund trustee for the IBEW, which holds CNRL shares, on why his members' money is being used on a project where workers are dying.

'BOTH BARRELS'

"I'm going to give him both barrels," Brower said of Laut, who corporate records show made $1.6 million last year.

But Brower will have to wait until at least October for justice to be done for the workers who died in the Gibbons bus crash.

"I drive by when I go to my lake," Brower saud. "I always stop, pull off the road and have a little cry when I see those crosses."

But who will cry for the Chinese tank builders?

Keywords

policy, oilsands, accident, safety, Chinese

Economic sectors

Oil and gas well drilling and related workers and services operators and Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers

Content types

Policy analysis, Current Policy, and Past policies

Geographical focuses

Alberta

Languages

English