Alberta not immune to downturn

Posted on: September 23, 2008

If Albertans are a bit smug about the financial problems in the United States, it might be a little too soon.

First a muse on the news, then some some small things noticed in our job-rich, labour-scarce Alberta.

Plans for major projects slated for Alberta have already had hiccups. Costs have risen and some old players have moved aside for new ones.

One upgrader put on hold was the Northern Lights project of Synenco and China’s SinoCanada Petroleum Corp., owned by China’s  giant resource company, Sinopec. The partnership was a 60-40 split with Synenco the managing partner. Sinopec became a partner in the Northern Lights project in 2005 for $150 million.

In May 2007 the partnership scrapped its Northern Lights upgrader plans. In August, 2008 Synenco sold its stake in the Northern Lights project to French energy company Total, for $530 million. Total is now the new partner for the Chinese.

The  Northern Lights project is a bitumen mine 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, slated to produce 114,000 barrels of bitumen over 28 years. But the Northern LIghts upgrader was the other half the project, and those plans were put on hold in May, 2007.

More recently the largest of the upgraders to be located north of Edmonton, the Fort Hills upgrader, 60 per cent owned by Petro-Canada, is a project under review as cost estimates have climbed from $14.1 billion (June, 2007) to $21 billion this month. Like the Northern Lights project, the Fort Hills project includes an an bitumen mine as well as upgrader.

Then these tidbits.

Not mentioning names, but an engineer for  an Edmonton chemical company is home, laid off. No sales, he says. A salesman for industrial painting equipment says he had to find something else, and has. His commissions were flat, sales were down, and gasoline was up. A nurse whose parents live in St. Albert arrived from New Orleans certain she would find a job in her home province. She couldn’t. Five hundred nurses from the Philippines hired recently for Edmonton hospitals, but she couldn’t find  a job in the area. She was amazed and is going back to the U.S. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can’t work at an industrial kitchen in Barrhead for a manufactured home builder. There are so many foreign workers in the kitchen that Spanish is mandatory, not optional. These are small signs we’re not used to hearing. Not just layoffs, but, we are bumping up against foreign workers having hiring preference for jobs in Alberta.

It means that a lot of money and jobs that were expected to be flowing in Alberta are question marks. While that doesn’t mean a slowdown, there are signs that the bloom on the rose isn’t quite as rosy.


1 Response to "Alberta not immune to downturn"

absolutely true, and i have complained to MP’s the alberta govt and MLAs to no avail.

I am an excess of 25+yr eng with alberta exp in refinery / petrochemical and cannot
find work.
I have far more success and interest all over the US.
I have been told much “cheaper” offshore hires can be found before salary or income is even discussed. I have many proven examples.

eg. APEGGA Published in june2008 pg 28 an article describing how professionals should
omit and underqualify their experience to apply for jobs .
Many companies wont even look at my resume but have hired dozens of Nigerians Venezualans, SAfricans Chinese and many others.

The Skipper from Canada writes: There is no shortage of labour. What there is a shortage of is forward thinking companies who go out and invest money in the most precious resource in this country – “human capital.”
I don’t observe any of the large oilpatch players investing the needed funds that are required to entice young and old alike into embracing a career with Imperial Oil, Syncrude, Suncour or CNRL. I have talked to many oil company HR people and in general they are rude and ignorant.

Dave Cooper, The Edmonton Journal “We can hire entry-level positions in Fort McMurray, and that’s what we prefer to do” Suncor recruiter Lisa Napier says


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