If elected, Elizabeth May says the Green Party would ban foreign oil imports to Canada. It would use only domestic crude instead — until the country can wean itself off of fossil fuels — as part of the party's Climate Action Plan.
"This has been a position that the Greens have had for many years," May told the Calgary Eyeopener. "It doesn't make sense to have a bitumen export economy."
May says she supports shipping refined product to other parts of Canada.
"The more that we refine and upgrade domestic bitumen into synthetic crude, it changes the conversation entirely. The more that the refined product — gasoline, diesel, propane — are all conveyed to markets much more easily and without the same level of environmental risk," she says.
"So we do need to have a conversation about, what are our energy needs as a country? What kind of climate parameters surround those energy needs, and how do we meet those needs while creating maximum number of Canadian jobs?
"For as long as we're using fossil fuels at all, globally, Canadians should be using Canadian sources."
May said she supports upgrading and refining Alberta bitumen for the domestic market.
"We import a lot of oil, particularly to eastern Canada, from Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, a lot from the U.S.," she said. "So if we're looking at how do we phase out fossil fuels in the period in which we're phasing them out, let's only use Canadian."
May says she is not against pipelines — she's against pipelines carrying diluted bitumen.
"We have never said we don't support pipelines," she said. "It's what's in the pipeline. We will never support pipelines with diluted bitumen."
May said she does not support shipping Canadian products out of the country. That's partly why she is against the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which would take Alberta oil to the west coast, and the Energy East pipeline proposal, which would ship Alberta product to the east coast.
"We're talking about Canadian oil, not just Alberta oil," she said. "Refining the product changes the conversation. So let's just focus on why it is that pipelines don't make sense. Pipelines that have diluted bitumen are all about exporting the jobs and the bitumen to other countries. Pipelines or other transmission methods for a refined product are an entirely different proposition.
"Diluted bitumen, if there's a leak into a watercourse, can't be cleaned up."
May said she'd like to see the provinces working together.
"It's been very frustrating to see our provinces pitted against each other when there are solutions that meet the needs of both of us," she said. "It doesn't make sense to have these really divisive, unhappy debates about a pipeline that's 100 per cent for export to ship bitumen out of Canada to other countries."
An electric rail system
But how to move it around the country?
"When we talk about product by pipeline or product by rail we need to be highly specific about what product we are shipping and under what terms and for what purpose," May said. "Solid bitumen by rail is safe as houses, but as again crude by rail poses different risk."
Shipping solid bitumen by rail doesn't have to mean burning diesel, May added, laying out her plan for an electric rail system.
"We'll be shifting our rail transition across the country, we need to modernize rail we need to move off diesel, we have electric rail as a possibility right across this country as soon as we have an East-West electricity grid that works," she said.
"So right now we have breaks in that grid … but Alberta has the best solar potential of any province. So if we maximize the renewable energy potential for Alberta, the electricity grid is key to getting off fossil fuels … the potential is enormous."