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Elizabeth May Just Doesn't Get It

One of the popular knocks against the Green Party is that it isn't a serious multi-issue party: rather it's simply the political arm of the environmentalist movement.

A recent interview federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May gave regarding the Keystone XL pipeline isn't doing anything to change that. Simply put, May's grasp on market economics is more than just a little bit slippery.\

In particular, May spoke of the spectre of Keystone XL exporting Canadian jobs to the United States. "[Keystone XL] also provides a way for Canadian raw material to be taken out of Canada and processed elsewhere,” May insisted. "When you export raw logs, you export jobs with that. It’s the same thing when you export with raw bitumen. We need a strategy that doesn’t do that either.”

"We are taking the process of bitumen refinery and doing it outside of Canada," she continued. "Either at the Gulf of Mexico refinery, or other countries.”

This, the argument continues, translates to exported jobs. Jobs that would be better kept in Canada. It's not a bad argument, provided you don't bother to think about it at length.

Refining Canadian oil in Canada has one major pitfall to overcome: it must clear the same hurdles as resource extraction. In Alberta and Saskatchewan that means that refinery-building projects must recruit the necessary workers from the same labour pool as resource extraction.

In provinces with a 4% unemployment rate, that can be both difficult and expensive. Labour costs are among those that have stalled the North West Redwater Partnership refinery planned for the Edmonton area.

Of course, western Canadian oil could be refined in refineries in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario and Quebec could really use those jobs, and their refineries could really use western Canadian oil. But that would require another pipeline, and May has been less than supportive of the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline.

If Elizabeth May wants to attempt economic arguments against the Keystone XL that's her prerogative. But the least she could do is actually get the issues right.

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