‘We wanted to let other people know that all the Native Americans don’t oppose the pipeline’
Article from the Canadian Energy Centre
Written by Deborah Jaremko
On the White Earth Reservation in northwest Minnesota, Matt Gordon takes great pride that his family’s Native American-owned construction company is able to help workers support their families in a region where 21 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
Gordon Construction is working on Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project, and that ongoing work is helping provide vital jobs and income for a region that has seen its share of struggles.
The company has over 150 employees, 60 of whom are recognized federally as Native Americans, Gordon says. Of the other 90 employees, many are married to a Native American member, supporting a Native American family, or living on the reservation.
“All that money stays on the reservation. One guy that works or one lady that works, they take care of not only their children or their significant other or spouse, they take care of their aunt or their grandma. It’s a big web is what they take care of,” he says.
“These are union jobs for a lot of these people. You get hours built up and good health insurance. You don’t have to go to Indian Health anymore. You have a retirement after you’re vested and you have a sustainable income.”
After anti-pipeline activists wreaked havoc on a worksite earlier this month, Gordon and five fellow Native American business leaders working on Line 3 released a joint letter calling out activists in part for “intentionally creating a false narrative that there is no Native American support for this project and the economic impacts and opportunities it brings to our people.”
The work of Native Americans employed by Gordon Construction and other companies were disrespected and put on hold when protestors descended on the work site, claiming to be defending the environment and Indigenous rights.
“They ended up not only damaging our equipment, they put gravel in our fuel tanks, in our hydraulic tanks, flattened all the tires. They essentially took that place over for almost 24 hours. They just left garbage everywhere,” Gordon says.
“It’s a touch of irony how these people are coming in to say they’re there for the environment, but then it’s just total chaos and anarchy and then they leave a mess. It took three days for that place to be cleaned up before we could go back to work.”
Gordon says the letter was also a reminder that there’s not universal opposition to Line 3 from Native Americans.
“We wanted to let other people know that all the Native Americans don’t oppose the pipeline,” Gordon says.
“It’s a good thing all the way around up in the northwest Minnesota corridor.”
Early advocate for Line 3
From his office window in the small town of Mahnomen, where his family has been for generations, Gordon often sees oil trains rolling by. It’s an ongoing reminder of both the power of U.S. oil demand and the risks of transportation without pipelines.
“We see oil coming up and down every day. It’s not going to stop just because one pipeline shuts down,” he says. “Pipelines are indisputably safer.”
Gordon was an early advocate of the Line 3 project, having previously worked with owner Enbridge including doing pipeline integrity digs for safety inspection on the existing pipeline.
“Essentially they have a structure set up on safety and environmental similar to that of working for the government, but I would say it’s even more stringent,” he says.
“My big thing of it is that they are a fair company. They work with you and they’re not trying to bankrupt you or make you lose money. They want you to succeed because if you’re a success, they’re a success.”
Benefits in Mahnomen
Mahnomen County, inside the White Earth Reservation, has the lowest per capita income in Minnesota. It’s about $21,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Gordon says that working pipelines, community members are able to make much more.
“You’re looking at guys that are working 60 hours a week, anything after eight hours a day is overtime, and all these guys are bringing home $2,500, $3,000 a week, which is huge to a lot of people in the community. Pretty proud of that fact.”
In addition to its contracts on the new Line 3, Gordon Construction is looking forward to supporting decommissioning and reclamation of the existing pipeline.
“Not only are we working now, but we’ll be working in the future when they’re doing the decommissioning of the line and shutting the old line down with final restoration. That’ll be a two to three year project,” Gordon says.
“We’ll have 40 to 60 guys dedicated to the final restoration portion after the line is done. And then you have the decommissioning aspect, and we’re trying to help support that process also.”
British Columbia won't take COVID-19 patients from Alberta: Dix
VICTORIA — British Columbia’s health minister says the province won’t be taking COVID-19 patients from Alberta due to current demands on its own health-care system.
Adrian Dix says the B.C. Health Ministry told its Alberta counterpart Thursday that the province will help in other ways if it can and may be able to take patients in the future.
Alberta is facing a COVID-19 crisis that is threatening to collapse its health system, with 269 patients in an intensive care system set up for 173.
British Columbia reported 706 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with four new deaths linked to the illness, bringing the death toll to 1,877.
The ministry says in a statement there were 5,844 active infections across the province with 291 people in hospital, including 134 in intensive care.
It says close to 79 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.3 per cent have received at least one shot.
“We are in a global pandemic, and our thoughts are with Albertans as they respond to COVID-19 in their province,” Dix says in a statement.
“We salute Alberta’s health-care workers, and all health-care workers who are working tirelessly to care for patients and protect people and communities in the face of great challenge.”
About 30 per cent of active cases in B.C. are located in the Fraser Health region, followed by nearly 26 per cent in Interior Health, 18 per cent in Vancouver Coastal Health, close to 15 per cent in the north and 11 per cent in Island Health.
There were 23 active outbreaks in health-care settings, including three hospitals.
The Health Ministry says people who have not received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made up 81.5 per cent of hospitalizations due to the illness in the first two weeks of September, while partially vaccinated people represented 4.9 per cent.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Alberta business groups want more clarity around new COVID-19 restrictions
Alberta businessgroups say a new program the province has launched to fight COVID-19 has been short on details while giving business owners little notice to make dramatic changes to their operations.
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday that their members have uncovered plenty of confusion as they scramble to make sense of the restriction exemption program Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday.
“Yesterday’s announcement prompted more questions than answers for our business community,” said Deborah Yedlin, the chamber’s president and chief executive, in a statement.
“Answers and clarity are needed urgently.”
The program Yedlin was referring to is meant to force people in Alberta to show proof of vaccination to enter non-essential businesses, including select stores, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and libraries as of Sept. 20.
Businesses can opt out of the program but must operate at reduced capacity and with distancing rules or restrictions. For example, restaurants not in the program are limited to outdoor dining with no more than six people at a table.
Just after the program was announced, Annie Dormuth, the CFIB’s provincial affairs director for Alberta, was already hearing from owners confused about if they will have to apply to use the program or to opt out of it.
Others were concerned the government didn’t offer guidance or training to staff around how to check if vaccination proof is fraudulent or deal with unruly patrons who disagree with the measures.
Some even lamented a lack of time to reorient their businesses and retrain staff for the new policies because the program has more exemptions than initiatives in other provinces and was announced roughly four days before it will go into effect.
“In the province of B.C., they were given a week and they were given support in the form of posters and guidance documents and here, we are three-and-a-half days away from this now and there’s not a whole lot of guidance being provided to business owners right now,” said Dormuth.
The lack of details is the latest challenge for small business owners who have spent much of the pandemic dealing with lower sales and fewer patrons.
CFIB estimates that small businesses in Canada now have debt totalling $139 billion due to COVID-19, a slight increase from the estimated $135 billion in February of this year.
Three quarters of small businesses that took on debt believe it will take more than a year to repay. In the hospitality sector alone, 87 per cent believe it will take longer than two years to deal with their debts.
Despite the pandemic challenges, Andrew Cowan had no qualms about requiring guests to show proof of vaccination before they visit Northern Chicken, the Edmonton restaurant he co-owns.
“Between my business partner and I, there were chats about how maybe we were going to do a vaccine passport ourselves, but the government is doing it now, so we don’t have to worry,” he said.
Cowan believes the changes won’t take much effort for his restaurant to implement because it doesn’t seat too many people and his staff have become accustomed to adapting to changes quickly after more than a year of pandemic regulations.
The biggest task stemming from the new program, he said, is training staff to check vaccine statuses and deal with any guests that try to buck the new regulations.
“It was a pretty muddy announcement, but we’ve got it pretty much figured out now and it doesn’t really change much from our perspective,” Cowan said.
“We were already being careful and trying to keep everything socially distanced in the restaurant already.”
The program that his restaurant and others are now adjusting to was introduced because a wave of new COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed hospitals.
Seeing droves of unvaccinated patients, health-care workers intensified their calls for more stringent safety measures amid polls showing support for vaccination passports in recent months, but Kenney refused to heed their advice until this week.
“Jason Kenney has demonstrated himself to be a skilled contortionist, bending himself virtually into a pretzel in order to appease a small fringe but vocal group of individuals who are opposed to vaccination,” University of Alberta assistant professor of infectious diseases, Dr. Ilan Schwartz, said at a Wednesday press conference held by Protect Our Province.
The organization comprised of health-care workers has long urged the government to take the pandemic and the fourth wave more seriously by retaining basic measures like isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19.
Despite Kenney finally edging toward more measures, the group remains disappointed with his new program and its lack of clarity, and fears it will do little to quell the virus.
Dr. Schwatz said, “We’re left with a hodgepodge of measures that are confusing, and consequently, they’re likely ineffectual.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said restaurants that opt out of the vaccine program are limited to no more than six people at a table, but that is only for outdoor dining.
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