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article imageNo surprise as Harper government OKs 'Northern Gateway' pipeline

By Ken Hanly     Jun 18, 2014 in Politics
Ottawa - The Canadian Conservative government of Stephen Harper has approved the "Northern Gateway" pipeline project headed by Enbridge Inc. The line is designed to supply oil and other products to a growing Asian market.
The pipeline will be designed to transport up to 525,000 barrels a day from northern Alberta a distance of 1,777 kilometers through part of Alberta and northern British Columbia to the port of Kitimat on the Pacific.
Many groups oppose the project as they fear for the negative environmental effects including to the water systems in the area through which the line will pass. Groups such as LetBC vote want BC residents to have more say in the project. Many aboriginal groups oppose the project.
Promoters of the project claim that the project will provide $1.2 billion in tax revenue and another $4.3 billion in labor-related income within just a four year period. Enbridge also estimates that the pipeline will add $300 billion to the Canadian GDP over 30 years.
Approval by the Harper government is just one step in a long process that includes 209 conditions that must be met before the project can go ahead. First Nations and environmental groups are already planning new legal challenges to the project.
A spokesperson in BC for Unifor Canada's largest private sector union Gavin McGarrigle said: "The Northern Gateway proposal is not in B.C.'s interest, and not in the Canadian interest. It's a proposal that acts as if climate change does not exist. It offers few long term jobs, it doesn't address First Nations' concerns, and it doesn't adequately address the environmental risks,"
BC residents are planning an initiative that will see BC residents vote on the project in September. The Dogwood Initiative is preparing for the vote. Will Horter executive director of the Initiative claims the group already has 450 organizers who will lead neighborhood campaigns in 35 BC provincial ridings even at this early state, along with 5,500 canvassers to go door to door to help pass a vote to reject the project. Horter said: “This is about democracy. We’ve got 130 First Nations who are saying ‘no way José – we don’t want this project. We’ve got two out of three British Columbians [against]”.
Horter at a new conference with other groups opposed to the project said he hoped that BC Premier Christy Clark would reject the project but that if she did not the group would use the legal tool of "the citizens' initiative". The initiative was used in 2010 to successfully kill the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax. For an initiative to pass more than 50% of voters in at least two thirds of all electoral districts must pass the initiative. A law is then introduced into the legislature and the provincial legislature still gets to vote on the law. The next date for a possible vote is September 27 according to Elections BC. The port city of Kitimat, where the pipeline ends, has already voted 59% against the project in spite of Enbridge attempts to convince the community of the benefits of the project.
Premier Clark said of the initiative and the five conditions the province set for the project:"Well I think if there's a referendum - that's up to them, the public, to decide. So I'll let that unfold as it may. It's not for me to interfere in a public referendum process.[But] on the five conditions, none of the proposals have met the five conditions yet. And therefore none of them would be approved by the Province of British Columbia. Enbridge has not met them yet, and they need to if they will be approved by our province" .
Both main opposition parties reject the project. The leader of the leftist New Democratic Party Thomas Mulcair said that it would be folly and madness to allow supertankers in the Douglas Channel en route to Kitimat the BC port on the Pacific that is the terminus of the pipeline. Both Mulcair and federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau promised to reverse the decision if they were elected to govern. The leader of the federal Green Party, environmental groups, and First Nations also opposed the decision.
Al Monaco who is both president and CEO of Enbridge touted the economic benefits of the pipeline but admitted that he had work to do in convincing the public that is should go ahead. Monaco was frank in admitting:"If we can't prove our safety and environmental protection, the economic benefits won't matter. In other words, the economic benefits alone are not enough to sustain public support." The Gateway is just one of a number of pipeline projects facing approval and development. Five others are discussed here.
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