While the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline has been a devastating blow to Alberta’s economy, for those who live in the town of Hardisty, Alta., the decision hits especially close to home — literally.
The existing Keystone pipeline begins in Hardisty. The expansion was set to bring more work and dollars to the local economy, until it was kyboshed by U.S. President Joe Biden.
“It was really disappointing (but) not a total shock. We had sort of a hint if the Democrats got in that it would be cancelled,” said Hardisty Mayor Doug Irving.
“It’s going to be a tough year.”
Mayor Irving also owns one of the towns’ motels — the Solitaire Motel. He said while the town has about 540 people who live there, there are around 600 hotel beds available. The majority of those were used by industry.
“(Construction) is all we have,” he said. “We don’t have any tourism here really, into the motel.”
This isn’t the first time the project has been cancelled. President Barack Obama also rejected it in 2015. Then Donald Trump gave back the project permit, to builder TC Energy Corp., in 2019.
Irving says that he still has hope an agreement could be made.
“I know it won’t be quick, but I’m hoping they’ll (Canada and the U.S.) come to an agreement and we will get the pipeline built,” he said.
“I’m really hopeful. I don’t know if a trade war is what we really want. I think we need to talk quietly to the Americans.”
According to government sources, some Canadian premiers have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stand up to the cancellation. There are reports that Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe are standing alongside Premier Jason Kenney in calling for pushback.
There’s some worry that the cancellation of the pipeline is just the first step that could lead to a “buy American” push down south and cause widespread issues for Canada’s economy.
Trudeau spoke to President Biden Friday and told the new leader he was “disappointed” in the cancellation.
For the town of Hardisty however, it’s hard to not look at the direct impacts on that economy, which will be felt sooner and swifter.
“There’s a lot of great businesses and a lot of good people that have been here for a long time, that were looking forward to it,” said Vinche Lehne, owner of Hardisty’s Local Rentals. His company had just secured a purchase order for portable washrooms for the Keystone project.
“We were actually really counting on it,” he said.
Lehne added that one cushion for the town is the Hardisty Terminal, a massive tank farm with approximately 14 million barrels of storage.
“We’ve been so fortunate (with energy companies),” Lehne said. “We get such loyal customers … there’s always something happening, hopefully.”
Ernie Ziegler, who owns Lakeview Liquor Store in Hardisty, said while his business doesn’t directly rely on big projects like some others do for business, it will still likely trickle down.
“When you start losing stuff like that it kind of drops your business,” Ziegler said. “You get your highs and your lows,” he said.
“Let’s see how it goes … Everything changes.”
For Mayor Irving, he said his hope is that Biden realizes the cancellation of the pipeline is going to end up costing Americans jobs as well.
“If the general public could see the level of work and the standard of work for pipelines, it would just amaze you,” he said.
Hardisty is located around 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.