Haisla Chief Councillor says refinery plan opens up question of national energy policy

Haisla Council has no position on refinery as yet in these early stages of the proposal.

Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross isn’t quite ready to express an opinion on whether David Black’s proposal for an oil refinery is a good or bad idea — the Haisla council has a policy of waiting for official government referrals on proposals before forming opinions — but he does say the newspaper mogul has a “long way to go.”

Ross said putting a concept on paper is one thing but actually implementing such a proposal will take years and years of work.

And he noted that Black’s announcement didn’t really say a lot beyond the fact he would apply for an environmental permit.

“That happens more often than most people know about,” said Ross, adding that permit applications are “a dime a dozen.”

Black told media in his announcement on Aug. 17 that he hasn’t yet had “serious” discussions with First Nations governments.

Ross said that he’s had no actual face-to-face meeting with him and communication has only been through the phone.

Ross said there are many unanswered questions around this proposal, from the opinion of other First Nations, to whether a permit for a refinery could be blended with Enbridge’s own application, among other issues.

But taking a moment to speak just as a British Columbian and not as an elected leader, Ross said that this opens up the question of national energy policy.

“What it boils down to is just that we don’t have an energy plan for Canada,” he said.

And aside from the debate on the refinery itself, Ross did praise Black for at least making this a topic of conversation.

“Regardless of cost, regardless of obstacles, regardless of the positive and negative comments, he actually was the one that made it in official in saying ‘we should be talking about this.’,” he said. “I hope it’s a wake up call to British Columbia and Canada…I do commend him for actually having the courage to bring it up.”

As previously reported, Black Press owner David Black announced  plans to submit an application for an environmental assessment for a proposed oil refinery to be located between Kitimat and Terrace. The plan calls for the processing of all the output of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project – about 550,000 barrels a day.