Frank McKenna and David Alward are touting the pipeline carrying bitumen from the tar sands to the Port of Saint John as our latest route to economic salvation.
Who gets the benefits? A pipeline would deliver most of its benefits to the oil companies seeking world prices for their bitumen and wishing to expand their tar sands mines, to the banks who invest in them, and to the Government of Alberta who would reap the royalties. Once it is built, we are left with a few jobs to monitor leaks, we are left with the risks of a bitumen spill into our waterways, and we are left with a 400 km long narrow clearcut needed to thread the pipeline through New Brunswick.
The pipeline will not make our communities more self-reliant or stable. It clearly will not be a magnet for jobs. But it is a huge distraction from the task at hand. We already have two pipelines which carry natural gas across the province. Neither has led to our economic salvation. Unemployment is high, the economy is stalled, and people are still leaving the province.
Continuing to offer ourselves up as the pass-through province for the benefit of others is never going to solve our economic problems, no matter how superheated the rhetoric gets. And if the pipeline were built, it would leave the world a little worse off, creating vast amounts of new carbon pollution caused by the tar sands expansion it would permit. The environmental impact of the pipeline would be like building 6 new coal-fired power plants or putting 4.5 million new cars on the road. In an age of rampant climate change, that's just not right.
The bitumen carried by the pipeline isn't even of any direct use the oil refinery in Saint John, because it needs to be converted into synthetic crude before it can be refined - a very expensive and polluting proposition.
Clearly, New Brunswick's economy no longer works the way it once did, nor is it going to experience the growth rates of the past. We need to do something different to benefit our families and our communities.
Most of what we buy comes from outside the province. Most of the money from our bank accounts, RRSPs, pensions, and insurance policies is invested outside of the province. To build a new economy that provides decent livelihoods for all, we need to keep the money home.
Spending money on food produced here, creates jobs. Spending money on food processed here creates jobs. Heating our homes with technologies built here - fueled by local wood pellets, firewood, geothermal energy, and the sun - creates jobs here. Spending money on music, literature and theatre created here produces jobs. Keeping tourists here to add their money to the local economy creates jobs.
The same goes for investment. Why should our money be used to invest elsewhere to benefit others? We need Community Economic Development Investment Funds so our money can work for New Brunswickers, to develop our communities and create opportunities for our families. We need to create Centres for Social Innovation where our young people can gather to pursue their ideas, apply their ingenuity, work, network, and innovate in shared space in the heart of our communities.
It's time to stop looking for economic salvation from outside the province. Instead we must build on our own strengths. New Brunswick is one of the few places left that is small enough and unspoiled enough to do things differently. We are small and we are different. Let's build on that.
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