“Nothing Venture” 6

Time for a spot of novel writing discussion, but will continue with the outline of events lower down the page. I’m relating all this background from memory, and feeling quite pleased that it seems well remembered. Almost all the books on writing insist the budding writer keeps a journal and I never have. My feeling is that if I don’t remember it, it couldn’t have been very memorable. Of course, anything I don’t remember won’t be here.

I have one suggestion for a defence – I wasn’t taking part in the attempt to buy an oil refinery in order to write a book. But it would be a good idea to have kept better record anyway. Actually, I think I have some original material in a box around the house – I haven’t attempted to use it because I don’t know which box, or where.

I believe all the critical stratagems and setbacks are firmly in mind because they were so vital at the time. The big difference in the writing of them is whether one is writing a history or a dramatisation. Memoire is sometimes held to be superior to fiction – until a writer is revealed to have invented the true stories related. I didn’t want to write memoire but to put myself behind the curtain to let the actions and deceptions speak for themselves.

Here I stick to the facts as recalled, because I’m outlining the events – a kind of history-lite, without the footnotes. We were involved with three oil companies in the attempt to buy the Calgary refinery: Imperial, the owner; Mohawk who wanted to steer our joint venture into ownership; and Turbo Resources who wanted to expand their operations with a refinery, and took an interest in buying an old one.

Don Skagen of Mohawk didn’t come out of the venture completely empty handed. For about a year, while Imperial’s people were keeping up the mantra of “if and when we sell the refinery”, he worked at solidifying the venture and finalizing the conditions of the joint venture agreement. We workers in Calgary Refining went along with the process – it was the only game in town.

Not so, Mohawk. On one visit to Toronto, the Imperial people offered Don Skagan some old refinery towers and exchangers stockpiled near Vancouver. At the time, there was a shortage of refining capacity able to supply ‘Bunker C’, the oil product used on steamships to fuel the boilers. Skagen thought it offered an opportunity and bought them – but I recognized afterwards that it was a case of Imperial giving him the rope to hang himself.

Soon he had enough refinery problems on his plate – site location; permits; construction materials; construction contractor; local NIMBYs; and local political brouhaha – to satisfy any would-be refinery operator. I really don’t remember whether his Bunker C refinery ever did refuel steamships – or whether the steady switch to diesel powered ships ended the fuel shortage.

I do remember his words to us at one of our last meetings when we spoke of the need to use political and public sympathy against Imperial’s stonewalling. “You fellows just have the interests of yourselves to look after. I have the livelihoods of over 2000 Mohawk employees and franchisees to consider.” Not exactly an acknowledgement of the business, economic, and social pressures he was under – but a pretty solid hint.

We took that hint and went looking for another joint venture partner; and it seemed we found one in Turbo Resources. I’ll give you their story next time.


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2 Responses to ““Nothing Venture” 6”

  1. Paul Lookman Says:


    I see today a sensible comment from your hand on War in Context on the subject “Gaza flotilla drives Israel into a sea of stupidity”. I have seen your posts there before. Just to let you know I have initiated my own political blog in my native language, Dutch. I am pretty sure you don’t read Dutch, but am confident you will understand the gist of the articles. I have added a page “English”, and expressly invite comments in English on my (Di-utch) articles, and … contributions in English, to be publushed on my blog on the page “English”. Are you interested?

    • kester2 Says:

      I think my blogs about the failed attempt by working people to reverse the autocratic policies of the oil industry giants show that my sympathies lie with all disenfranchised and oppressed people. I have long worked within political parties to reduce the control special interests have over our attempts at democracy.

      While I worry about the justice of the eventual settlement of the Israel – Palestinian crisis I feel all people of conscience should make a public stand on the issue. My deeper concern is the degree to which the foreign state of Israel controls the public discourse and the political leadership in Canada and the United States. We are free and welcoming nations, open to all, but we expect our citizens to hold their primary allegiance to the countries in which they reside above any feelings for foreign states.

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