Calgary city council wades into pipeline debate

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WATCH ABOVE: Calgary city council is getting vocal in the debate over pipelines. Each councillor is releasing a video outlining their support for the province's oil and gas sector, but can the city make a difference in how Alberta is viewed in the rest of the country? Adam MacVicar has more – Dec 13, 2018

Calgary city council is getting vocal in supporting Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

On Thursday, Ward Sutherland was the first of city council to release a short video outlining his support for the industry as well as explaining the positive benefits of Alberta oil.

“We got together as a team, we filmed different segments to talk about the positive parts of the oil industry,” Sutherland said. “Those videos are going to get released every couple of days from all the councillors, everybody is participating, so it’s a total team effort.”

Each councillor put forward $500 from their ward offices to fund the series of videos.

In addition to the videos, members of city council will be attending a pro-pipeline rally on Monday outside city hall, hosted by Canada Action; a volunteer group that encourages Canadians to support Canada’s natural resources sector.

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“We’re going to make some announcements that council is going to decide on Monday morning on what we can do as a council, because we’re very limited at a municipal level.” Sutherland said.

READ MORE: Calgary councillor submits motion urging city to support Alberta’s energy industry

According to officials, the initiative with Canada Action is separate from a motion introduced by Councillor Jeromy Farkas last week that calls on the city to advocate and support oil and gas, as well as the construction of pipelines.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Alberta’s current economic situation is a problem that needs to be fixed, and said Calgary has had a role in the pipeline debate.

“I have been in Montreal and Vancouver and Quebec City; I’ve made speeches in English and in French advocating for people to understand the importance of pipelines,” Mayor Nenshi, said. “We are certainly in no way new to this game.”

But one expert believes that at the municipal level, the city won’t have much influence in the debate because pipelines fall within provincial and federal jurisdictions.

“I think what they’re doing by voicing their support is much more of a showing solidarity, adding political support to actions taken by the government,” economist Trevor Tombe, said.

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“But there’s nothing the municipal government can do to influence pipeline construction one way or the other.”

READ MORE: Expert panel doubts curtailment will help western Canadian oil prices after Jan. 1

This as frustration continues to mount over a lack of an immediate solution to the province’s oil price differential. The provincial government has announced an 8.7 per cent cut to oil production starting Jan. 1, 2019, as well as their interest in the construction of a refinery — a project that could take nearly a decade to build.

“Thinking of the next 12 months, there’s really not much we can do,” University of Calgary School of Public Policy economist Kent Fellows told Global News,

“We need to think about what this market looks like in December 2019 and how we want to get from here to there — and I think curtailment is probably the best and only short term thing that can be operational to do this properly.”

In the meantime, the Alberta government is trying to raise awareness through TV and radio ads to create a sense of urgency across Canada. Premier Rachel Notley even tweeting a video of the province’s lost-revenue ticker being projected on a building across the street from a federal Liberal Party Christmas event in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

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READ MORE: Alberta government brings up pipeline issue with projection prank at Liberals’ Christmas party in Ottawa

“When people don’t care in other provinces, how are we going to convince them?” Haskayne School of Business professor Robert Schulz, said. “I think everyone is trying their best but I think it’s going to be a personal sell.”

Schulz believes its up to the public to reach out to relatives and friends in other provinces to raise awareness of the situation in Alberta.

The city’s pro-pipeline rally is at 12:15 p.m. inside city hall on the southside of council chambers.

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