The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Local Economy
Labour + Industry

How NOT to Fix Alberta’s Hurting Jobs Economy

Toss 85,000 out of work, ignore global energy shifts. That’s Kenney’s UCP plan.

By Gil McGowan 11 Apr 2019 |

Gil McGowan is president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, representing more than 170,000 union members in public and private sectors. He was co-chair of the government’s Energy Diversification Advisory Committee.

Contrary to what you might have heard, Alberta’s current economic malaise has little to do with government policies or “foreign-funded” environmentalists. The real problem is that the global oil and gas sector is in the midst of a fundamental transformation.

The first dimension of this transformation has to do with the United States. As a result of the fracking boom, U.S. oil production has more than doubled in 10 years, turning the U.S. into the world’s largest oil producer, surpassing both Saudi Arabia and Russia. This change has upset the world’s oil supply-demand balance, creating global supply gluts which have driven prices down and led to investment cuts and job cuts in all oil-producing jurisdictions around the world, including the U.S. itself. It has also allowed the U.S. (the world’s biggest oil market and Alberta’s biggest customer) to become more self-sufficient — a change that undermines Alberta’s business model.

It’s important to understand that this is not just another boom-bust cycle. In response to Saudi Arabia’s ill-fated attempt to drive U.S. competitors out of business by flooding already glutted markets with cheap oil, oil companies have figured out how to produce more oil, at lower costs, while employing fewer people (thanks largely to automation). Employment prospects in exploration and extraction will never be the same.

To make matters worse, the United Conservative Party’s public finance plans are projected to put up to 85,000 more Albertans out of work — far more than the number who lost jobs during the oil price crash of 2015-16. (See sidebar for a new report containing these findings.)

The timing for such cuts could not be worse, because Alberta faces two other big pressures to diversify its economy beyond dependence on fossil fuel extraction. One of these challenges is local and one is global. The local problem, as all Albertans know, has to do with pipelines. In October last year, Alberta oil production officially exceeded the takeaway capacity of our existing pipeline network. The result was a catastrophic plunge in the price of bitumen, which was only reversed after Premier Rachel Notley introduced mandatory production caps. The standard narrative is that these problems can be solved if we can get a pipeline (maybe two or three!) built to tidewater.

But, while pipelines like TMX would undoubtedly help, they won’t change the bigger global trends. That leads to the final, and most important, dimension of the energy transformation: like it or not, the world has started the process of moving away from fossil fuels. As recently as last month, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers pointed to projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggesting that global demand for oil will continue to increase until 2040. UCP Leader Jason Kenney has echoed this view.

However, both the CAPP and Kenney use the EIA’s “business as usual” scenario and ignore the organization’s projections about what would happen to global oil demand if the world meets its emission reduction targets under the Paris Accord and if renewable energy technologies accelerate their rates of adoption. Under this so-called “sustainable development” scenario, global oil demand will peak as early as 2026 and fall by as much as 30 per cent by 2040, setting off dramatic price drops.

Given all that happened in 2018 on the climate change front — wildfires, floods, heat waves, the new UN report concluding that we only have 12 years left to avoid climate change catastrophe — the chances of the world continuing to do next to nothing on climate change are slim. We also have to consider what would happen if China makes good on its promise to become the “General Motors” of electric vehicles and if American voters turf Donald Trump for a “Green New Dealer” in 2020.

What all of this means is that the “business as usual” approach that Jason Kenney and the CAPP are banking on is not likely to be on the menu for much longer. Nor will slashed corporate tax rates forcing tens of thousands of lost public sector jobs restore the health of the province’s fossil fuels sector.

The good news for Albertans is that we currently have a government that at least tacitly acknowledges that our economic future is going to be defined by change — and is responding by pivoting towards the downstream within the oil and gas industry (partial upgrading, petrochemicals, etc.) where prospects for growth remain stronger, while at the same time, promoting diversification beyond oil and gas. The Notley government is also working with oilsands companies to aggressively reduce emissions so that Alberta can be the last heavy-oil producer standing in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.

The bad news is that we have an opposition party poised to take power that refuses to acknowledge that change is happening, let alone make any plans to deal with it. In the coming election, Albertans have a clear choice. We can choose candidates who acknowledge that change is coming and are willing to prepare for it, or we can choose candidates who stick their heads in the sand and think that tax cuts for the wealthy and spending cuts for everyone else will somehow bring back the “good old days.”

For the sake of our jobs and our economy, it’s essential that we choose the energy pragmatists over the energy dinosaurs.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Is One Art or Design Skill You Wish to Learn?

Take this week's poll