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Good union jobs! Green jobs! UCP supporters need not panic, they're not for anyone around here!

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Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage at a recent Keystone XL related announcement. Image: Chris Schwarz/Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party, friends of the union man and woman, not to mention the environment!

Who would have seen that coming?

Yet there was Energy Minister Sonya Savage, her words in black and white in the text of a government of Alberta news release yesterday, boasting about agreements with four big unions for work that even come with a refreshing whiff of Green New Deal!

The UCP's generous supporters need not worry, though. These aren't deals between the government and the four big health-care unions that represent the bulk of Alberta's front-line medical workers who are risking their lives in the fight against COVID-19, for example, or anything like that.

Not a chance! Those guys are still in for a world of pain, just like Alberta's physicians and teachers, if Kenney and his government get their way and some "activist judge" doesn't muck up their plans.

No, as usual, there's a caveat with any good news from Kenney's government, and in this case it's that the work done by the members of the Laborers International Union of North America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters will all be south of the 49th parallel.

LiUNA, the Teamsters, the Operating Engineers and the Plumbers all have a presence in Alberta but, notwithstanding Savage's promise some of the work their American brothers and sisters are getting will eventually create jobs on this side of the border, it's not clear if any of it will come to Canadian members of those unions.

Nope, Savage was celebrating a deal signed by TC Energy Corp., nominally of Calgary, to work on the U.S. sections of the Keystone XL pipeline -- that is, the one into which Kenney's government has already sunk $1.5 billion and has committed itself to providing another $6 billion to the former TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. to see the project through to completion.

Critics have called the commitment "a bad bet," which was understating things considerably even before it became obvious Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was likely to pull the plug on the project if he's elected in November. And this seems probable unless Donald Trump can find a way between now and then to declare himself president for life.

So when Savage says "we will continue to work with our allies in U.S. states and the federal government to emphasize the importance of doubling down on this long-standing energy partnership that will help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil from undemocratic, predatory nations," she may be whistling past the graveyard, metaphorically speaking.

And when she says "this project will support almost 60,000 jobs in our two countries, giving workers -- sidelined by the economic downturn and COVID-19 pandemic on both sides of the border -- hope and optimism for a steady and reliable paycheque for the next three years," a certain amount of skepticism about how many jobs will actually be created north of the line is entirely justified.

When Kenney said he was laser focused on creating jobs, we didn't expect so many of the good ones to be in the United States, even if that's nice for our partners in what Savage calls "the world's strongest and most mutually beneficial energy trading relationship."

You have to read the TC Energy release, of course, to get a sense of what's really going on. To wit, that TC's enthusiasm for its deal with the four big international unions sure sounds like window dressing to change Biden's mind in the now likely event he becomes president.

When you hear the corporation's Houston-based PR department bragging that their union deal "will inject hundreds of millions of dollars in middle-class wages into the American economy, while ensuring this pipeline will be built by the highest-skilled and highest-trained workforce," what else could it mean?

Same goes for the promise that "TC Energy is also working with labour to establish a unique Green Jobs Training Program to help union members acquire the specific skills needed to work in the developing renewable energy sector."

I mean, seriously, it's smart to get to the front of the parade before there's a crowd there.

As for Alberta, the Kenney government's "war on unions" continues apace, as everyone involved gears up for years of legal challenges to Bill 32, the tendentiously named and largely unconstitutional Restoring Balance in Alberta's Workplaces Act, which received royal assent on July 29.

The only union leaders Kenney likes, it seems, are south of the world's longest temporarily closed border.

"The Keystone XL pipeline project will put thousands of Americans, including Teamsters, to work in good union jobs that will support working families," said James P. Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in the TC Energy presser.

Education minister to discuss 'next steps' in curriculum changes

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange will be back at the podium this morning, this time to tell us about "the next steps to update the curriculum and strengthen the K-12 education system."

Alert readers will recall how the UCP's overheated rhetoric during the 2019 election campaign tried to make the curriculum review started by the old Progressive Conservatives but continued under the NDP after 2015 sound like some kind of communist plot.

Not to prejudge, but chances are whatever LaGrange trots out tomorrow won't be all that different from what David Eggen would have announced were he still education minister.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Chris Schwarz/Alberta Newsroom/Flickr


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