Travis Toews lets himself lend $1.25B to oil refinery

Did you know that Keystone XL isn’t the only oil and gas project that the UCP government plans to spend over $1 billion on?

As you know, the Alberta government promised to spend $1.5 billion on shares in TC Energy, the company that’s building the Keystone XL pipeline, even though the company made $32 million off the corporate tax cut last year and whose 2019 profits were $4 billion.

But did you know that’s not the only oil and gas project that the UCP government plans to spend over a billion dollars on?

Last week, Sonya Savage, minister of energy, and Travis Toews, president of the Alberta Treasury Board and the minister of finance, recommended to the lieutenant governor that Toews be authorized to do the following:

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  • Make advances to or purchase securities of the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission
  • Raise money for these advances or securities purchases through issuing and selling
    • Notes
    • Bonds
    • Debentures
    • Interest-bearing treasury bills
    • Non-interest-bearing treasury bills
  • Approves the terms and conditions of any securities he issues

The lieutenant government approved the recommendation.

This order was specifically related to the financing of the North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery and limits Toews’ financing the refinery to a maximum of $1.25 billion (even if indirectly through the commission).

The refinery is located about 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, in Sturgeon County, and is operated by North West Redwater Partnership, a 50/50 partnership between North West Refining and Canadian Natural Upgrading, a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources.

While the refinery should be fully operational later this year after additional work and testing is complete on their gasifier, the facility has been processing synthetic crude oil into diesel since November 2017.

Once fully operational, the refinery will process bitumen feedstock, 75% of which will come come from the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission.

Ian MacGregor, CEO and chair of North West Refining, is a member of the North West Redwater Partnership executive leadership committee, as well as its management committee. He has been involved in most aspects of the Sturgeon refinery’s design, corporate structure, financing, and construction.

Another area that MacGregor has been involved in is provincial politics, donating thousands of dollars to political parties over the last several years. He donated $1000 to the Calgary-Bow PC constituency association in 2007, $500 to the PC Party in 2008, as well as $2000 to Leah Lawrence’s PC campaign that same year. In 2012, he donated $1000 to Alana DeLong’s PC campaign and $500 to Cecilia Low’s PC campaign. He contributed $1000 to Byron Nelson’s PC campaign in 2015, and then later that year, donated $5,000 to the Alberta NDP during the provincial byelection. He also donated $450 to the NDP in 2018. Last year, he donated $5000, split between the Alberta Party, NDP, and the UCP, including a $1000 campaign contribution to the Alberta Party.

That’s over $16,000 to 4 major parties since 2007.

Canadian Natural Resources is also no stranger to political donations, donating nearly $125,000 to political parties, candidates, and constituency associations between 2004 and 2015. Parties included the PC Party, Wildrose, and the Alberta Liberals. Candidates have included such names as Derek Fildebrandt and Jeff Callaway. Constituency associations included Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, where the refinery is located, various Calgary ridings, and Grande Prairie-Wapiti, the home riding of Travis Toews.

So, this government has reduced corporate income tax at a cost of $4.7 billion, invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL (not including the $6 billion loan guarantee), and $1.25 billion in a refinery that is nearly complete.

Meanwhile, they’re cutting healthcare, underfunding K–12 by $2.5 billion, and donating only $5 million to food banks.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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