Steve Thorlakson: Grassroots energy prosperity starts with pressuring Canadian refiners

stevethorlakson

Most of my columns have been about local issues, some federal and some provincial. The feedback I have received in person or by phone has been very positive. Facebook has brought out some negativity, seemingly as if I were attacking someone’s friend on city council. I take that with a grain of salt.

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Who I have not heard from – at all – is city council or city staff. Maybe they think I should be giving them more pats on the back? I don’t know, but that’s their job, not mine.

Frankly, they have done a lousy job of communicating on some key issues. I’ve heard nothing but loud howls of derision about the “million dollar dog park.” I know there’s more to the story, but it’s council’s job to get accurate and complete information out – all of council, not just the mayor.

I’ve raised deep concerns about the rationale for the taxpayer bailing out the Budnick family with the purchase and demolition of the Condill. What’s the rationale, particularly as it appears the taxpayer will be taking a beating to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars? When I was on council, it was illegal to subsidize a business – I don’t think anything has changed. We deserve a full and transparent explanation, and if it doesn’t come forward, we should demand the provincial inspector of municipality conduct a full investigation on this, and any similar things they may find.

Time to shift gears.

Everyone in Northeast B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan is supportive of having pipelines to the coast for oil and for LNG exports. All Canadians would benefit.

Quebec says they oppose an oilsands pipeline, but how soon they forget Lac Megantic. And while they are dumping raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River, I suppose they don’t care if oil from such democratic bastions as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela comes to the refineries in New Brunswick and Montreal. Why aren’t the eco-activists screaming from the rooftops?

I’ll tell you what I think – they go after the low hanging fruit — brought to them by a B.C. government propped up by the Green Party, and that BANANA attitude on the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, and Greater Vancouver of "build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone".

The eco-activists have a bunch of sheep acting like Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 – appeasement and fear of being branded as evil. They won’t or can’t make the connection between resource development and their own well-being. Canada would soon become a second-tier economy if the Green Party and their toadies got their way and eliminate fossil fuels.

So, how should we deal with this when clearly the B.C. government and Liberals in Ottawa have no idea and no plan? I have an idea, and it takes a page right from the activist’s playbook.

Over the last 20 years, major corporations have been forced to change their policies by activist shareholders. Oil companies left the corrupt Sudan, miners stopped the trade in blood diamonds and human rights violations in Central America, and more. It’s a long list, and those campaigns have been mostly successful. And those campaigns continue to this day.

I suggest we start with a focused group of people who already invest in the East Coast refiners in Montreal and New Brunswick: Irving Oil in New Brunswick, Suncor and Valero (Texas owned) in Montreal, and four larger refineries in Ontario operated by Imperial Oil, Shell and Suncor.

These are five companies to target by shareholders demanding they only use oil from Canada and the U.S. — let us not alienate our largest trading partner. Let us not sit back and wait until after October and the federal election, hoping Andrew Scheer and the Tories can make their energy corridor vision a reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I support Scheer and his vision – it can be the 21st Century version of the CPR construction, the Trans Canada Highway, the coast-to-coast microwave communication network.

But, let’s not leave it to the government alone. Let’s empower grassroots democracy to make sure it happens. I’m willing to be part of the network – are you? I have lots of friends in Alberta and B.C. that will join in.

If you want to be a part of Grassroots Energy Prosperity, drop me an email at sthorlakson@gmail.com. Let’s make this happen!

Steve Thorlakson is a resident and former mayor of Fort St. John.

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