EDMONTON, AB (January 13, 2014): The PC government is committing Alberta taxpayers to a potential financial black hole by guaranteeing $1 billion in corporate welfare to finance a risky refinery project, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today. Late last week, the government officially announced it has approved a $1 billion loan to the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission to assist the North West Upgrading’s Sturgeon refinery. This, in addition to escalating tolls Alberta will have to pay that some estimate to be around $2 billion.
The refinery – the only one out of eight previously proposed refineries for the Industrial Heartland that hasn’t been cancelled – has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. ”The PCs are once again picking favourites with taxpayer money, exposing taxpayers to tremendous risk and refusing to say why,” Wildrose Energy Critic Jason Hale said. “If this project fails, taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars. This government needs to immediately break its corporate welfare habit and stop lining their friends’ pockets with taxpayer dollars.” The economic viability of refining bitumen has come under serious scrutiny, raising questions about why the PC government is so committed to it, Wildrose Deputy Finance Critic Drew Barnes said. He noted 20 upgraders have shut down in Canada since 1970. “If these projects were such great financial investments, there would be intense private sector competition for the business,” Barnes said. “The fact that the PC government is so willing to throw billions of taxpayer dollars at a business model the private sector is staying away from should be very concerning to taxpayers.” North West Upgrading Inc. has donated more than $36,000 to the PC party since 2008. Barnes says the government’s investment in North West’s project combined with the company’s record as a PC party corporate donor raises even more questions. “You have to wonder why the PCs are choosing this particular project to support with billions of tax dollars and you might presume it’s because the company is a long-time PC party donor,” Barnes said. “This is why Wildrose supports scrapping corporate and union donations to political parties. We need to eliminate these appearances of political favouritism.”