By: Amanda Fowler, University of Windsor law student

Alberta’s oil sands have become a popular component of the trade relationship between Canada and the United States. As a Canadian citizen growing up in Southern Ontario, the developments with oil sands production has not been a direct provincial concern. However, after learning about the interconnected nature of Canada/US trade issues, the oil sands not only raises issues of trade, but also the environment, energy, natural resources, labour, and public policy.

Stephen Gordon wrote an article written in The Globe and Mail called “Asia increasingly driving the prosperity of Canadians” reporting that in Ottawa tomorrow the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada are protesting the TransCanada Keystone pipeline, which will carry bitumen to the southern United States.

Why is this important? After the “Buy America” initiative was introduced in the United States to retain and increase jobs, the pipeline has been seen as another job stimulant for Americans. And even more detrimental- a killer for Canadian jobs.  Canadians have traditionally processed the bitumen into oil before transporting it to the U.S. Now, these jobs will be eliminated as Americans will process their own oil after receiving Canada’s bitumen reserves.

On the other hand, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, was aggressively pushing Americans to approve the extension of the pipeline. He argues that it “would help the U.S. to a more secure energy future… [and] bring more than $20-billion in new construction related spending to the U.S. economy and create 20,000 well-paid construction and manufacturing jobs.”

Wait a second… did I read that correctly?

It may be argued that the Government of Canada has the responsibility to create more jobs for Canadians- not Americans. In this sense, “Buy America” has had more of an impact on Canada than just tariff increases. The Government could be looking for more viable options to export our oil, without the expense of our domestic labour market. However, it can not be ignored that Alberta’s pipeline would cause a significant reduction to The States’ reliance on Venezuelan oil to Texas, and provide a safe and reliable oil supply . The value America places on the oil supply leads one to question: what are Canada’s benefits to the pipeline, and do they outweigh the expense of losing jobs in Alberta?