500 Ducks? A Worker’s Response to Harper’s Election Playbook of War, Hyper-Profit, Resource Sell-Out and Labour Intensification
CPS Election Analysis 2008 - Week 2
September 7, 2008

Another worker was killed on the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) Horizon project, 70 kilometres north of Ft. McMurray, on September 3, 2008. The 47 year backhoe operator, husband and father of 3 marks the third death on the CNRL site in 17 months and 21st workplace fatality in Alberta in 2008. The number of construction related fatalities in Alberta in 2007 was 20.
The Alberta Ministry of Employment and Immigration reported in the summer 2008 report “Lost-Time Claims, Disabling Injury Claims and Claim Rates - 2007 Summary” that 154 occupational fatalities were recorded in 2007. The report showed that over the period of 1998 to 2007 fatalities increased from 105 to 154 per year – an increase of 46.7% from 1998.

1 - Workplace Fatalities in Alberta (Source Government of Alberta 2007 Report)
When wages are taken into account the report states:
“Injuries were more prevalent in lower income groups. Workers making less than $23.90 an hour, the provincial average wage, accounted for 75.7% of lost-time claims and 63.5% of those in employment. In contrast, workers making the average wage or higher, accounted for 24.3% of lost-time claims and 36.5% of those in employment.”
According to Stats Canada data, in the province of Alberta, construction and construction related trades make up 5.5% of the workforce. The 2007 Alberta Government report concluded however that this same group recorded 22.6% of disabling injury claims. The same year Bloomberg reported that Petro-Can net profits jumped 77% to $CDN1.5 Billion.
Particularly alarming are disability and lost time rates for young workers. The report stated that, “Injuries in most age groups were generally proportionate to their representation among workers in Alberta”. Statistics for the years 2006 and 2007 revealed that workers 15-24 years old accounted for 22.7% of all disability injuries while working 14.7% of total hours worked in the province. The report also indicated that over the 2 years reported (2006 and 2007) 88 children under the age of 15 suffered permanent disabilities on the job!
Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan in a Journal of Commerce article said, “As the economy heats up employers start throwing less experienced workers into dangerous work situations, often without the necessary safety training. The results are as tragic as they are predictable.” This now includes children.
The December 2006 report by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS) entitled, “Five Deaths a Day: Workplace Fatalities in Canada, 1993-2005” exposed that in Canada the rate of workplace fatalities was 5 workers for every day of work which for 2005 averaged 230. The report’s authors, Andrew Sharpe and Jill Hardt, concluded that, “In 2005, the incidence of workplace fatalities in Canada was 6.8 per 100,000 workers, up from 5.9 per 100,000 in 1993. This rate represents one death for every 15,000 workers. This upward trend is disturbing.” This rate represents a 44.7% increase over 1993 rates.

2 - CSLS 2006 Report Canadian Fatality Rates
During a 20 year period from 1987 to 2006 the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reported in their “Value of Producer Sales Table – Canada” (sales of all energy liquids including, NG, Oil Sands and Crude Oil) that Canadian sales volumes of petroleum liquids increased 500% from $CDN18B to over $CDN106B. Total sales for the 20 year period was pegged at $CDN1.1 Trillion.
The May 21, 2008 Statistics Canada report released preliminary first quarter numbers for Canadian businesses in 2008. While it showed declines in most Canadian industries, oil industry profits continued at an unrelenting pace. Oil companies raked in $7.1 billion in profit, up 3.7 per cent from the previous quarter.

3 - Value of Canadian Energy Sales (Source - CAPP)
A 2006 Stats Canada report “Boom Times: Canada’s Crude Petroleum Industry”, authored by Miles Ryan Rowat. The author concluded that, “Canadian oil companies derive the majority of their revenues from exports; in 2005, two-thirds (66%) of Canada’s crude oil production flowed out of Canada. Since 1995, thirsty Americans have received practically all (99%) of Canadian oil exports.”
So what do these few and disjointed statistics have to do with the federal election? Workers’ lives!
The Sierra Club, the Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute are outraged and demand government action to save 500 ducks that landed on a Syncrude tailings pond near Fort McMurray. Ducks don’t vote.
What is not on the agenda in this federal election is workers’ health and safety. Five workers are killed every day in Canada. Add to that total the 97 combat troops killed in Afghanistan and the 100’s more disabled, most of whom are from working class families, sent there by Harper to make Central Asia safe for the big oil and gas investors, the same interests that make billions from the Alberta Oil Sands.
The NDP and Liberals bemoan the fact that the Harper Conservatives have a stranglehold on federal constituencies in Alberta. Here’s a tip. Start talking to and about workers in the energy sector.