A major Calgary pipeline firm working on the Keystone XL pipeline project confirmed Tuesday it is making staffing changes “to remain competitive and optimize our operations.”
TC Energy issued a statement to Global News in response to questions about whether the company was laying off workers. TC Energy did not say if it was letting anyone go.
“Our Canada gas operations and projects team is implementing a new structure to ensure the optimal skillsets to navigate the next tranche of our expansion and operations,” the company’s statement reads.
“TC Energy continually reviews our organizational structure and processes to ensure we continue to deliver safe and reliable services while meeting the needs of our customers.”
A spokesperson for Alberta’s energy minister told Global News that the changes being implemented by the company “are not related to the Keystone XL project.”
“The Government of Alberta has a direct financial interest in KXL but does not decide the day-to-day operations or management of TC Energy,” Kavi Bal said in an email.
“The government is taking action with Alberta’s Recovery Plan — a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build, diversify and create tens of thousands of jobs.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about TC Energy.
At a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday afternoon, Opposition Energy Critic Irfan Sabir accused the Alberta government of giving TC Energy billions of dollars “with no strings attached.”
“This was supposed to be jobs and get our products to market,” he told reporters. “Instead, the Keystone XL project is embroiled in legal and political uncertainty and the company itself is laying off people right here in Calgary.
“This isn’t a good sign for Calgary. This isn’t a good sign for Alberta.”
Once complete, the Keystone XL project is expected to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska.
In March, the Alberta government agreed to invest about $1.5 billion as equity in the US$8-billion Keystone project, which has faced numerous political and regulatory setbacks in the U.S. over the years.
It’s expected that the remaining US$6.9 billion will be funded through a US$4.2-billion project level credit facility to be fully guaranteed by the Alberta government and a US$2.7-billion investment by TC Energy.
Sabir said TC Energy has also benefited from the Kenney government’s corporate tax cuts.
“And yet, like Husky and Encana, all Albertans get is layoffs and investment in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Sabir called on the provincial government to reveal exactly how many Albertans will lose their jobs as a result of TC Energy’s restructuring.
Adrienne South, press secretary for Labour Minister Jason Copping, told Global News that the law currently requires notification for layoffs of 50 or more.
“The government has not received such a notification,” she wrote in an email.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Kenney was asked about TC Energy’s restructuring and defended his government’s investment into the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The $1.5-billion preferred equity investment is related to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” he said. “You can see a report out today about how that’s turned the community of Oyen into a boomtown — an east-central Alberta community that desperately needed jobs that are being created because of the investment of Alberta’s government in the TC Energy Keystone XL project.
“We’ve actually created a mini-boom in parts of Alberta where the construction is underway.”
Kenney reiterated that TC Energy would be required to notify his government of significant layoffs and that has not happened.
“I will refer any additional questions to TC Energy itself. The point is, they are doing the work where we are partners on the Keystone XL pipeline, that is creating jobs — thousands of good-paying jobs — and creating secondary jobs for the service industries in the communities between Hardisty and the Saskatchewan/Montana border.
“And secondly, we would call on the federal government to get out of the way of job creation by approving the application for the expansion of the natural gas trunkline system.”
In a news release issued in May, federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said that while he understands the Canada Energy Regulator recommended approval of the NGTL system expansion, his government has to “fulfil our constitutional duty to meaningfully consult with Indigenous peoples.”
O’Regan said those consultations had been somewhat delayed by logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To ensure there is sufficient time to fulfil this constitutional obligation, while respecting public health and safety precautions, the Governor in Council has extended the timeline so that a decision on NGTL 2021 can be made no later than Oct. 19, 2020,” he said.
In the news release, O’Regan added that the “continuity of Canada’s energy sector is critical to the recovery of our economy.”
“Canada’s economy has benefited from our oil and gas sector,” he added. “Our country will continue to rely on the hard work and ingenuity of the people employed in this industry as we build a stronger, more sustainable economy.”
At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Opposition Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous blamed the Alberta government for what he called an insufficient response to the province’s ailing economy and for presiding over mounting job losses.
“We need a plan that sets Alberta up for the future,” he said. “One that supports our oil and gas sector while investing in new industries and new technologies.”
Bilous added that he believes the province should continue to support its oil and gas sector, however, noting that “it does not have to be one or the other.”
“The NDP is working on a plan just like that and our leader Rachel Notley will have more to say in the coming weeks.”
Last week, TC Energy announced its president and CEO Russ Girling will retire at the end of the year and give up his seat on the board of directors. He is to be replaced as director and CEO by chief operating officer Francois Poirier.
–With files from Global News’ Tomasia DaSilva and The Canadian Press’ Dan Healing