Think-tank warns proposed Energy East pipeline won't deliver promised jobs to Manitoba

TransCanada's proposed pipeline for bitumen is not a good deal for Manitoba, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a social interest organization and think-tank.

Impact of proposed pipeline focus of report released as hearings set to begin

A handful of people attended a news conference at the Manitoba Legislature Thursday as a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on the potential impact of TransCanada Pipeline's proposed Energy East pipeline was released. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

TransCanada's proposed bitumen pipeline is not a good deal for Manitoba, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a social interest organization and think-tank. 

The proposed project would convert a natural gas pipeline to ship heavy oil from Alberta to Eastern Canada.

TransCanada said a Conference Board of Canada study found the project will create 630 full-time jobs in Manitoba, both directly and in-directly related to the project, and generate $466 million in new tax revenues for the province.

The CCPA reviewed three impact studies in advance of upcoming National Energy Board hearings.

The report says costs connected to carbon emissions in the pipeline proposal aren't adequately calculated and don't reflect the changing world of energy use and the need to lower emissions.

The report says there have been five pipeline leaks with two explosions in Manitoba in the last 20 years, and that it's not a matter of if but when another leak or explosion occurs. TransCanada maintains pipelines are safer than the rails for transporting oil.

CCPA challenges the economic numbers on the Energy East pipeline and argues it won't create nearly as many jobs as the proponents promise. 

Real costs of pipeline don't add up, group says 

In fact, the report says Manitoba Hydro's demand-side strategy would create more jobs without the need for pipelines. 

Lynne Fernandez, one of the authors of the CCPA report, says pipeline proponents aren't calculating the real costs of converting the gas pipeline to carry bitumen.

Oil prices would have to double to make the investment viable in the first place, found the report.

Fernandez said the impact studies show a less than one per cent increase in Manitoba's gross domestic product if the pipeline is converted.

And she said there would be little actual construction to do the conversion. 

"Once bitumen starts flowing, the jobs will be in maintenance and operations, not in construction," Fernandez said.

Fernandez also suggests the days of oil as a predominant source of energy are ending. She pointed to Saudi Arabia's efforts to pump oil at low prices.

"The Saudis are getting out of the business," she said.

There are also serious safety and security issues with the proposal, especially with the pipeline's proximity to Winnipeg's water aqueduct and other nearby natural gas pipelines, she said.

Canada still needs oil: TransCanada

TransCanada said the Canadian economy still relies on oil.

"We all need oil every day, whether for transportation or as a base ingredient in thousands of articles such as clothing, make-up, medical supplies and cell phones to name a few," wrote spokesperson Tim Duboyce in an email to CBC.

The Energy East pipeline will bring oil to refineries in New Brunswick and Quebec and replace Canada's reliance on foreign oil, he said.

"Canadian oil is produced under some of the strictest environmental and labour regulations in the world, which is more than you can say for some export countries such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia," Duboyce added.

" Energy East will help the Canadian economy as a whole, by supporting the resources industry which provides thousands of jobs throughout the prairies and from coast to coast."

In a written statement Manitoba's Minister of Sustainable Development Cathy Cox said the province is committed to the National Energy Board approval process.

"We are committed to ensuring the voices of Manitobans are heard and our interests are protected, which is why the government of Manitoba has applied for intervenor status in the National Energy Board regulatory review of Energy East."

The CCPA released its report on the same day the National Energy Board said its hearings into the proposed pipeline will be "innovative."