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Sask. NDP leader and MLA get a look at Boundary Dam, CCS and mining operations

NDP leader Carla Beck and Regina-University MLA Aleana Young toured the Boundary Dam Power Station, including the carbon capture and storage facility, and then stopped by one of the Westmoreland Coal Company's draglines last week.
NDP MLA Aleana Young and party leader Carla Beck were in Estevan on Dec. 13.

ESTEVAN — A couple of Saskatchewan NDP MLAs, including party leader Carla Beck, were in Estevan on Dec. 13 to get a closer look at elements of the city's energy sector.

Leader Carla Beck and Regina-University MLA Aleana Young toured the Boundary Dam Power Station, including the carbon capture and storage facility, and then stopped by one of the Westmoreland Coal Company's draglines.

"I've always wanted to go on the tour. I know it's something I've been trying to set up for a long time and I finally got out there today," said Beck, who was quite impressed with what she saw at Boundary Dam.

"There is a lot of pride in the work that's gone on out there, the first of its kind, the only one of its kind," she added later.

Young, who is the critic for SaskPower and Energy and Resources, among other portfolios, used to work with the Petroleum Technology Resource Centre during the construction of the Boundary Dam CCS facility from 2011-2014.

"I spent many hours a day touring the facility or bringing folks down from the city, so it was kind of cool to be back and see it ticking along," said Young.

But she had never been to a mine site, and that was a great experience.

"For anyone who doesn't work in the industry, they're pretty neat places to get to spend a little time, and also pretty iconic places in the history of Saskatchewan and power generation," said Young.

Beck has made multiple trips to the southeast, including a visit days after she became leader in June. Her brother Blair resides in Carnduff.

There are hundreds of good, "mortgage-paying jobs" at Boundary Dam, the Shand Power Station and at the local mines, they said, and each job creates other jobs in this area. If those jobs are lost, Beck and Young said there would be a considerable impact on Estevan.

But they did not commit to further investment for CCS technology at Shand and for Unit 6 at Boundary Dam should the NDP return to power in the next election.

"It's something we were talking about, not so much the folks at Boundary, but the people at the mines," said Young. "You look at the clean electricity standards [from the federal government] that are, barring changes, likely to come into place in the next decade here. You look at what that means for certainly the community of Estevan and most directly the people employed at the mines."

The NDP has been calling for the provincial and federal governments to get to the table, "act like grown-ups" and have a conversation, Young said, because for the people at the mines and the power stations, there's a lot of uncertainty.

And if Shand and other units at Boundary Dam are shut down, Young wants to know the likelihood of the mines remaining here for the sake of Boundary Dam Unit 3, which has been retrofitted with CCS technology.

"That is a huge piece of economic uncertainty for the province, for power generation in Saskatchewan but also for all the people directly and indirectly employed by the mines," said Young.

If the federal government were to allow for investment into CCS, then they need to look at the timelines and the business case.

"The timelines are looming. Twenty-six per cent of the power in the province right now is generated by coal. What is the plan? If there will be a phase-out of coal, what is the plan for those thousand workers who are currently employed there? What is the plan for investments in a city like Estevan, where there's a lot of opportunity, but it's difficult with this kind of uncertainty looming to attract that investment?" said Beck.

The federal government needs to recognize the realities facing Saskatchewan and how their decisions for Western Canada impact communities like Estevan, Young said. 

The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan legislature came to an end recently. Affordability was a huge issue for communities throughout the province. So were health care and jobs.

"The work that our team had done around connecting with people and bringing their voices through our voice – or literally bringing those people to the legislature to raise those concerns – I think was effective. I felt good about the session and look forward to continuing the outreach and making sure that the things that we're saying, in the legislature, are connected to the concerns, as well as the hopes and the opportunities that we see at the province.'

She noted that the government talked about how great everything is, but then in the throne speech, they said it was time to close the remaining Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority stores without notice or consultation.

Beck said the NDP has placed an emphasis in the past six months on getting out and talking to people, and they want to take a deeper look at opportunities and challenges.