Cullen challenges Conservatives on raw oil exports, forces commitment

OTTAWA

Under intense pressure this week from Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, the federal government has promised to block the export of raw oil for processing in countries with lower environmental standards.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Cullen accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of breaking a 2008 campaign promise to prevent the export of unprocessed oil (bitumen) from Alberta oil sands for upgrading offshore to capitalize on looser climate-change rules.

Cullen raised the issue following a bid by Chinese state-controlled Sinopec to export raw Albertan oil and refine it abroad.

“The Prime Minister is breaking his own fundamental promise not to export raw bitumen to countries with lower environmental standards. He is exporting raw resources and Canadian jobs,” Cullen, NDP natural resources critic, charged in the House of Commons.

Yesterday, following continued pressure from Cullen, a government spokesperson stated that they will live up to their promise and intervene to stop such exports.

Cullen vowed to hold Conservatives to their word but suggested the government seems to be contradicting itself in light of its enthusiastic support for Enbridge’s proposed 1,700-kilometre pipeline between the oil sands and Kitimat.

“This pipeline would open up new markets and serve as a major drawing card for Chinese and other prospective Asian investors in the oil sands, all looking to maximize their profits and happy to ship raw oil offshore to do so,” Cullen said.

“Here in the Northwest, we know a thing or two about raw log exports, about how shipping round logs offshore means many fewer jobs for Canadian forest families.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out we can’t go this way with Albertan oil, too,” said Cullen regarding what he terms “the latest crack in the Conservative claim to open, accountable and transparent government.”

Cullen noted his 2010 and 2009 economic riding tours consistently highlighted the importance of curtailing the export of raw resources from the Northwest and Canada.  A focus on the green economy was another key finding.