Adding refining capacity to increase fuel supplies might bring down the price of gas, says a Skeena – Bulkley Valley federal election candidate, but where or if a refinery might be built remains an open question.
The issue arose last week with NDP candidate Nathan Cullen promising that an NDP government would aggressively pursue lower pump prices, fining gas companies found to be overcharging.
But he also said high prices are often blamed on the global market conditions, wondering why that’s so because Canada has the third largest supply of oil in the world yet imports the product.
“One of the clear solutions to shielding ourselves from that overseas volatility is to be refining more of that resource, and creating more jobs, right here in Canada,” said Cullen in a statement.
But speaking later Cullen would not broaden that statement out to supporting either one of two proposals for a refinery on the north coast.
“I think first you need a real [environmental] assessment process and I would argue that doesn’t exist,” said Cullen.
“You would need to address [aboriginal] rights and title and get local communities onside and public support.”
Cullen said the NDP has consistently opposed moves by the federal Conservative government to weaken the way environmental reviews are conducted and federal agencies charged with overseeing industrial activity.
In any event, Cullen continued, neither the Kitimat Clean project proposed for Kitimat nor the Pacific Future Energy project proposed for near Prince Rupert are anywhere close to beginning an environmental review.
Both would also require a pipeline to carry crude from Alberta to the coast, a concept Cullen vigorously opposes when it comes to the Northern Gateway proposal sought by Enbridge.
That involves pumping Alberta crude to a planned export terminal at Kitimat to Asian refineries.
Liberal candidate Brad Layton said he’d support construction in one or the other of the two locations “if it could be done in a responsible, safe and environmentally sound way.”
“I would most definitely like to see us refine more of our raw resources here in Canada including crude oil. This would boost jobs and contribute to a healthy economy,” he said.
But, Layton added, he hasn’t seen any environmental assessments connected to the projects nor any details.
Gauging his own take on the possibility of increased fuel supply, the Liberal candidate did “caution people that with the way our current gas prices are determined I suspect this will not impact our prices in any significant way.”
The Christian Heritage Party’s Don Spratt also supported the construction of a new refinery while emphasizing the need for environmental safeguards.
“We should wean ourselves off foreign oil, have a domestic free market pricing system, like other oil producing countries. That should lower prices at the pump, while we sell our surplus oil and gas at world market prices,” said Spratt.
He was more leery of the NDP’s ability to manage prices.
“Even if they could somehow force lower prices at the pump, they would eventually raise the price up in higher gas taxes,” said Spratt of an NDP government.
Cullen’s position on gas pricing included a promise that a NDP government would create a gas ombudsman position.
Information provided by his campaign indicated the position’s job description and responsibilities would be similar, but not exactly the same, as those called for in a private member’s bill introduced in 2012 by a now-former NDP MP.
In that bill, the ombudsman would take in complaints about the business practices of oil and gas suppliers and, if warranted, investigate those complaints.
If the complaint is, to use the bill’s wording, “well-founded,” the ombudsman would send recommendations for action to the oil or gas suppliers.
And if the ombudsman is not satisfied with the response by the supplier, a report is then sent to the federal industry minister.
The private member’s bill was, however, silent as to what the minister could or would then do.
Cullen also said a NDP government would follow through on Conservative legislation which called for the fining of those whose gas pumps aren’t calibrated and so pump out less than what is indicated on the meter.
The legislation came into force in 2014 but no fines have yet been issued.
Conservative candidate Tyler Nesbitt had not responded to a request for comment by press time. The site www.gasbuddy.com compares gas prices.