Alberta's vast oil sands are an engine of economic growth. Production has more than doubled in the last decade and spilling billions of dollars into the economy. On the other side .. They are dogged by issues of environmental degradation and statistics that they account for the largest increase in green house gas emissions in the country. The oil sands have been a Game Changer for Alberta, for the country and arguably beyond and in more than one way.Today we focus on the communities that surround them.
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Canadian Press, Eamon Mac Mahon, File)
This is a special edition of The Current coming to you from Calgary.Part Two of The Current
Game Changer: Oil Sands - Bert McKay
We started this segment with some tape from September 30, 1967...Then-Alberta premier Ernest Manning sounding rather portentous at the opening ceremony of the first oil plant, at what we now know as the oil sands. But even he probably could not have imagined how big the project would grow ... how much the landscape would morph, and just how much of a game changer the oil sands would ultimately become.
Bert McKay was one of the original 700 oil sands employees. And he remembers that while there was plenty of excitement with the opening of that first oil plant in 1967, there were plenty of problems as well. Weather, the remote location and an unexpectedly stubborn soil all initially stood in the way of the big profits.
Bert McKay was there to experience it all first-hand. Now retired, he was first hired in 1966 as a Senior Operating Technician for what was known then as the Great Canadian Oil Sands. He was in Edmonton.
Game Changer: Oil Sands - Janet Annesley
The area covered by the oil sands is immense -- almost twice the size of New Brunswick. And the scope of their influence is far greater - bringing economic benefit to Alberta, and beyond. The lure of well paid jobs has attracted workers from across Canada ... many all the way from Newfoundland.
But the oil sands have been hugely controversial, too. Environmentalists consider it the land bridge between the seventh circle of Hell and Mordor. So yes, the sands give and the sands take. And whether you think it's for better or for worse, their impact is indisputable.
Janet Annesley is the Vice-President of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. She was in Calgary.
Other segments from today's show: