Clark’s dithering threatens refinery

Ms. Dithers is at it again.

Ms. Dithers is at it again.

This time, Premier Christy Clark’s flip-flopping is casting a shadow over a multi-billion dollar proposal by Victoria entrepreneur David Black to build a refinery outside Kitimat.

(Before I proceed, this qualifier: Yes, David Black owns this newspaper. No, we are not beer buddies. In fact, the last time we were in the same room together was a quarter century ago when I did a feature on him for another newspaper. I found him to be a tad stuffy.)

Last week, Black unveiled his mega-project at a conclave of the BC Chamber of Commerce, the Vatican of Free Enterprise.

He told the Howe Street cardinals that “the proposed refinery will be the largest on the west coast of North America and amongst the largest in the world. Direct employment will be in the order of 1,500 full-time equivalent jobs with another 1,500 contract jobs to support the operations and maintenance. During the construction period it is expected that a workforce of 6,000 will be required for a five-year period.”

The project includes a $16-billion refinery, $6 billion for oil pipelines, $2 billion for natural gas pipelines and $1 billion for new tankers.

Black, who can read the headlines like the rest of us, threw in this caveat: “If B.C. remains set against a pipeline the oil will come to the refinery by rail. CN and the oil companies are keen on this. A great deal of crude in North America is being moved by rail now. The costs are not that different in this case and no permits are required.”

Desperate for any glimmer of light in her long dark tunnel, the premier immediately burst into song. You know the tune: Canada Starts Here, Vote Liberal, ta-da.

“Our government wants to use every tool at our disposal to move the proposal forward,” she told the legislature. “Without question, this would be the largest single private-sector investment in the history of our great province. And it would be, potentially, a tremendous game-changer for our children and their children.

“Our government takes the view that we should work together to address legitimate environmental and safety concerns and find a way to get to ‘Yes’ on projects that will grow our economy,” she gushed.

The NDP energy critic John Horgan accused her of simply seizing a “photo opportunity.” He also said: “Whenever someone comes to the table with (billions of dollars) you want to listen to what they have to say.”

Between then and now the premier introduced a disqualifier that must have the business community wondering — to borrow a famous legislature one liner — whether she is putting scotch on her corn flakes.

Now Clark is saying the plan falls short of meeting one of the conditions she set for approval of such projects — that B.C. must get a share of the economic action in exchange for the environmental risk.

“In terms of meeting that condition, Alberta and the federal government are still going to have to come to the table and talk to us,” the premier states in media reports this week.

We know that isn’t happening. Alberta Premier Alison Redford has told Clark to take a hike. And, a project with huge revenue producing promise is thrown in doubt because Clark is still having a hissy fit with Redford?

So much for getting to ‘Yes.’ M

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