The calendar didn’t read April 1, but there it was in black and white: Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen proposing a bill that would encourage the creation of oil refineries in Canada.
It’s a good idea – oil refineries would create a lot of high-paying jobs and eliminate the risk of bitumen or crude oil spilling into North Coast waters. But the encouraging of refineries is part of a bill that also includes a crude oil tanker ban on the North Coast, so the refinery portion seems moot.
While it was good to see the NDP throwing his weight behind creating value-added jobs here in Canada, it was a bit shocking to see it coming from Cullen. Since the inception of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, the MP has wasted no opportunity to discuss the inherent dangers of transporting crude oil by pipeline to the coast. As well as the tankers on the water, Cullen has pointed directly to the many waterways any such pipeline would cross and the potential impacts of a spill on the land base as proof of the dangers posed by oil pipelines. He also has never missed a chance to take a shot at the Alberta oil sands and the risk their expansion poses to the environment.
Yet with this proposed legislation Cullen is making it easier for those pipelines to proceed because any refinery on the coast, which this bill supports, would require the transport of crude oil from Alberta. It also provides a means by which the oilsands can further grow, thanks to support of refinery construction.
But of course Cullen is hiding behind “social licence” when it comes to these kinds of projects, saying it is something any project would need to have to proceed. How social licence is achieved and proven, however, is something Cullen himself has said can’t be quantified – making it all but impossible for any company to say they have it.
With an election coming up, the NDP are clearly looking to make major moves to hold on to their official opposition status. It’s just surprising to see the most adamant anti-oil pipeline MP in the House of Commons throw his weight behind a bill that gives the industry a loophole to the coast.
Because even with a refinery, the people of the Northwest shoulder the risk.