'Timing is suspect,' says Conservation Council's Louise Comeau
Irving Oil says it has launched a strategic review that will consider, among other things, "a full or partial sale" of the company, one of the largest in New Brunswick.
A strategic review of the company is underway, and a series of options are being evaluated related to the company's future, the Saint John-based company said in a statement.
No decisions have been made about where this strategic review may lead. Considerations will be given to a new ownership structure, a full or partial sale, or a change in the portfolio of our assets and how we operate them.
The statement was signed by Arthur Irving, chair of the Irving board, Ian Whitcomb, the president, and Sarah Irving, the executive vice-president.
'They don't tell us much'
Louise Comeau, director of climate change and energy solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said until she hears otherwise from the company, she's going to assume the review is a normal part of doing business.
But she fears that's not the case.
It's very difficult as always with this company and this family to understand the motivation because they don't tell us much, said Comeau.
She said she hopes
this is not a ploy as part of their campaign to undermine climate action by connecting the review to economic constraints posed by climate regulations.
But she's suspicious of the timing.
Yep, the timing is suspect. There's no doubt about it, said Comeau.
One would hope that they wouldn't do that, A, to their workers, B, to the community and C, in terms of their own reputation for being a responsible employer in terms of its environmental performance.
She worries the announcement will be used as
political game for others who are trying to undermine climate action federally and provincially, and I think that would be the most irresponsible outcome of all.
My biggest concern is that politicians will take this on as an example of the negative impact of climate regulation, and that is completely irresponsible in my view, said Comeau.
Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said she got a
heads-up from Irving Oil's president, Ian Whitcomb, to tell her about the news release.
She said didn't get a sense from that conversation whether selling is a first choice or a last resort.
Reardon said she's not worried about a potential sale.
I just feel a company like Irving Oil would be very particular who they would — if they are going to sell — who they would choose to sell that business to.
Reardon believes the Irving family would want to ensure the business goes into
the right hands with a company that would
look after it and foster it and sort of keep it the way it is.
Founded in 1924 by Arthur's father, K.C. Irving, Irving Oil operates Canada's largest refinery, which processes 320,000 barrels a day and is New Brunswick's largest greenhouse gas emitter.
According to the company's website, it has
more than 900 fuelling locations and a network of distribution terminals spanning Eastern Canada and New England.
With 4,000 employees, the company is one of the most powerful in the province.
In 2021, Irving Oil announced a partnership with Calgary-based TC Energy aimed at
significantly reducing emissions through the production and use of low-carbon power generation.
The company said at the time it was looking at adopting new technologies to
aid in decarbonizing local industry, but it has turned down interview requests about its long-term future as a refinery of crude oil.
Irving Oil spokesperson Katherine d'Entremont did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.