Indigenous owned businesses say cancellation of Keystone XL pipeline means more job losses


On the first day of his Presidency, Joe Biden used an executive order to cancel the permit approved by former president Donald Trump to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline would have connected Alberta’s bitumen to Nebraska and then to the gulf states further south.

This news is not shocking. Biden campaigned with the promise to do exactly that.

But Indigenous business owners in the oil and gas industry are hoping Biden changes his mind.

Shawn McDonald, president of Resource One Aboriginal Business Association and owner of Black Scorpion Contracting in Alta., says the oil and gas industry is still reeling from the 2014 oil price crash.

Now, with the cancellation of Keystone XL, it will mean even more job losses.

“Without any pipelines leaving the province, the demand is there, but we can’t get the supply out,” he says. “It will have  a big impact. So now, there is going to be less opportunities for us.”

He says membership in the association is down 75 per cent, as well as his business being down the same.

“We were probably banking on that pipeline going through,” he says. “Now that it’s not, there are projects that are going to be cancelled, mothballed, or put on the shelf for awhile.”

Judy Desjarlais, owner of Top Notch Oilfield Contracting based in British Columbia, says that Biden should come and see the high standard Canada and Indigenous business owners have building pipelines, and protecting the environment.

“If the U.S. side would like to come and see how we do our pipelines, and take care of our lands at the same time… I’d welcome them to come take a look at exactly how we take care of the land, as an Indigenous person and business owner,” she said.

Even knowing of Biden’s intentions to cancel the pipeline during the campaign, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney allowed construction of the pipeline to begin.

The cost could add up to $1.5 billion.

After Biden officially cancelled the project, Kenney announced that he is considering legal options.

He is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the issue with Biden and change his mind.

Kenney called it a “gut punch” to Canadian and Alberta economies and he wants Trudeau to impose economic sanctions if the decision is not reversed.

Earlier this week, Kenney said the existing 200 km of pipeline might have to be sold for scrap to try to recoup some of the expense.

TC energy has halted all construction, and has announced plans to lay off about 1,000 construction workers.

McDonald says that Energy East should be constructed. That pipeline would have delivered bitumen from Alberta to New Brunswick for refining. That project was cancelled in 2017.

“For a good economic recovery, Energy East should go through. We have our taxes back. We would all pay taxes on it again, royalties. Not to mention equalization payments”

Along with cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, Biden also announced that the United States was also re-joining the Paris Agreement as part of the country’s battle against the climate crisis in which fossil fuels plays a major role.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.