A proposal to build a refinery along the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline is "irrelevant," according to provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix.
Newspaper mogul David Black has floated the idea of building a $13 billion refinery, which could create upwards of 3,000 permanent full-time jobs and allow Canadian crude to be turned into value-added diesel and gasoline to be shipped to Asian markets.
Dix agrees that adding value to resources before they're exported is good in theory, but he doesn't believe Black's plan is realistic and said it has no influence on his party's opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which aims to connect Alberta's oilsands with Kitimat.
"There hasn't been any discussion with the Chinese, so there's effectively no market," Dix said. "There's no product, there's no site, there's no support from First Nations and it still requires Enbridge Northern Gateway to take bitumen through northern B.C."
Black's plan has the potential to be a game changer in the pipeline debate because of the investment and jobs it could bring to the province. Black estimates it would create 6,000 construction jobs in addition to the 3,000 workers who will be needed to operate the plant. It will also lessen some of the marine environmental concerns because gas and diesel are much easier to mop up in the event of a spill than heavy crude.
So far Enbridge has been mum on how it views the refinery, with the company pointing to the upcoming final phase of the hearings for the environmental assessment for Northern Gateway.
Dix had a 90-minute meeting with Black on Tuesday to go over the details of the refinery proposal, but the leader of the official Opposition left the sit down without changing his opinion. Dix said he asked Black for copies of some of the feasibility reports on the refinery, but to date Black hasn't shared them.
The refinery won't be taken into account or made a condition of the pipeline approval process, which also concerns Dix.
"The (refinery) is irrelevant, unfortunately, to the discussion of Enbridge Northern Gateway," Dix said. "The proposal is a pipeline to take raw resources out of the country and that is what is going to be approved or not approved."
The idea of adding value to exports is something Dix said he would pursue if he wins next year's provincial election, but cautioned the plans must be realistic and viable.
"I agree with (Black) in general, that we have to upgrade (our resources)," Dix said. "We have to pursue (those opportunities) for the long-term interests of our economy to ensure people benefit -- not just through profits, not just through tax dollars but through jobs."