Does the NDP’s support for oil refineries as a means of job creation play into the proposal by BC media mogul David Black?
Black wants a $13 billion refinery to be built in Kitimat, the western terminus of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, carrying bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands. Refined oil would be shipped elsewhere. Black has no financial backing because buyers prefer to refine oil closer to its use locations, but he appears to have the support of the federal NDP.
According to NDP energy critic Peter Julian, “we are happy that more people are looking at valued-added production in the country. We need to maximize the potential of our resources, and the fact that Mr. Black put forward that proposal shows more Canadians are coming to the NDP position.” Julian claims “we are missing a real opportunity in oil sands development,” but local refining of tar sands crude is no alternative to offshore development.
No matter what happens to the bitumen extracted from the tar sands, the extraction process itself destroys the earth, poisons the local environment and spreads cancer amongst nearby indigenous communities. Whether the resulting tar sands are refined in BC or elsewhere, the resulting carbon emissions are pushing us closer to climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, the billion dollar subsidies for inefficient job creators in the tar sands are diverting much needed resources from efficient green jobs that create more employment while sparing the environment.
That’s why BC’s First Nations are having none of it. According to Art Sterritt, of the Coastal First Nations group, “The oil you’re going to be sending out there and the quantity of ships and the air quality you’re going to be affecting in this geographic area are going to have the same results as sending crude oil offshore. I suggest that if you really want to do business in the north, you should really be out there talking to First Nations before you start making announcements.” Respecting First Nations has never been Black’s strong suit. He used his media muscle in the 1990s to oppose the Nisga’a treaty, instructing his newspapers not to carry editorials supporting the treaty and instead publishing a series of essays opposing the treaty.
“Job creation,” and calls for local refining of tar sands, is a provocative red herring—which ignores indigenous sovereignty, ignores the inefficient job creation in the oil sector, and minimizes the threat of climate catastrophe—and the NDP should see through it.