Kitimat mayor gets a view of oil sands in Alberta

A tour for Northwest government leaders showed them a bird's eye view of oil sands developments.

Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth says he sees the oil sands operations in Alberta in a new light, not ignoring there are ugly sides to the industry but can see the positive sides of it too.

Germuth, along with other Northwest mayors, flew over the oil sands on a tour sponsored by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The tour was organized in conjunction with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Edmonton from June 4 to 8. Germuth wasn’t formally part of that conference — tied up elsewhere in the Lower Mainland at another event — but councillor Mario Feldhoff represented Kitimat for the FCM. Germuth said the trip began with an aerial tour.

“Basically they flew us over all the different [open pit] oil sands sites, and we visited the actual drilling sites,” he said.

From there they visited Syncrude and Suncor sites, and had a sit down with the Fort McMurray mayor, whom Germuth said was immensely knowledgeable about all the issues that came from industrial development, which Kitimat experienced through the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization.

Germuth said the trip turned out a lot more educational than he was expecting from a tour hosted by the group representing the oil producers themselves.

“Going up I can admit I was a bit skeptical, thinking we were only going to see one side of it, only the really nice stuff,” said Germuth. “But I was very impressed with how honest they were on the whole tour.”

In some cases he says the oil sands are very much like the photos you occasionally see circulating on the Internet.

“The pictures you see on the Internet of this big, open, black pit and yeah, that’s what it looks like. No doubt about it,” he said.” And they admit that they do remediate…but that’s one area where they’re working very hard.”

He said all the companies in that area are focusing on improving remediation efforts.

Germuth said the tour also took them to remediated sites themselves.

“It was good to actually see it yourself. There is some ugly stuff…but there is also a lot of remediation.”

Overall the tour did raise his impression on oil sands.

“Definitely better than what I thought of before,” he says on his opinion on oil sands. “You had a really good perspective of what it’s really like over the whole, very large area. Yes, there is the open pits…but for miles and miles around you can see untouched land too.”

Germuth was not the only mayor from the area on the trip. Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc and Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain also took part.