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Pipeline projects could improve jobless rate: Chamber chair

More pipeline projects could help improve Canada’s unemployment rate. That’s the idea from Cris Seppola-Podsada, chair of the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce board, as the country’s jobless rate increased 0.1 per cent in January to 5.9 per cent.

Alberta’s went up by the same amount to seven per cent, while the economic region that houses Grande Prairie went down by that much. The Banff – Jasper – Rocky Mountain House and Athabasca – Grande Prairie – Peace River region is sitting at 5.9 per cent, a significant drop from 7.0 in January 2017.

“We can get people back east building pipes,” suggests Seppola-Podsada. “We can get people across western Canada getting the pipe into the ground, and I think that if we can get past our difficulties that are really presenting themselves interprovincially, we can help this country be more prosperous.”

The chamber chair is referring to the current trade war between B.C. and Alberta, prompted by B.C.’s proposal to limit bitumen shipments from Alberta. Premier Rachel Notley has already retaliated by suspending talks of purchasing B.C. electricity and banning imports of B.C. wine.

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Seppola-Podsada says she’s hearing from most local business owners that they want the spat resolved as quickly as possible, and that it’s time for the federal government to intervene.

“The pipeline was approved at that level and now we need to get that going so that we can be providing our resources globally and also to be helping our country be more prosperous.”

Anecdotally, Seppola-Podsada is hearing job opportunities are improving locally, especially with more investments in the oil and gas industry. Instead, she sees labour shortages starting to become a problem.

“Not only for skilled but entry-level jobs as well… I think that after our last downturn we had a lot of people leave, which is sort of par for the course here, and now we have to entice them to come back to fill those jobs up.”

Seppola-Podsada has already noticed companies advertising positions across Canada and further. She adds that the optimism she’s feeling in the community is feeling less cautious than before.

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