With a decision imminent, a group of prominent Canadian politicians and businessmen are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline project. The Premier’s of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as three former Conservative cabinet ministers, have joined with the heads of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and B.C. Chamber of Commerce to say this is “a project that’s right for our time.” Will the Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal go Forward?
Despite her obvious sympathy with the fossil fuel industry, Premier Christy Clark’s signature is not among them. It has been more than a year since Clark told reporters that the people of British Columbia must approve this project. Any attempt to proceed without that consent, “would be a national political crisis. Whether or not people supported the pipeline, they would band together to fight the federal government if they decided to intrude into British Columbia without our consent.”
To gain that consent, Premier Clark laid out five conditions that must be met.
Technically speaking, the Federal Government could complete the first condition: “successful completion of the environmental review process.” In their press release, the BC government defined this as “a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel and subsequent approval by federal cabinet that the project proceed.”
However at last count there were 10 lawsuits suggesting the environmental review was flawed. Some believe the humpback whale was removed from the threatened species list so that the review panel would not have to explain why it refused to have a recovery strategy for the Whales included in the record.
As the Globe and Mail pointed out this morning, “the panel did not explain which evidence it relied on and which it rejected. For all we know, its report could have been written before the hearings even opened. This is hardly the transparent and accountable process Canadians expect, and are legally entitled to.”
There is no “World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline” (condition two) or corresponding system for land spills (condition three).
It is also becoming increasingly clear that the majority of British Columbians are opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline. That includes many of the First nations whose Aboriginal and treaty rights need to be addressed (condition four).
Enbridge claims they have signed agreements with 60% of the First Nations along the route.
This does not include the Yinka Dene Alliance, who occupy 25% of the land the pipeline would cross.
On their website it says, “The Yinka Dene Alliance of First Nations is committed to using all lawful means to stop this devastating project from ever being built through our territories, and has joined with other First Nations to create a powerful and unbroken wall of opposition.”
“The smart thing for the Government to do is respect First Nations and reject Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project,” a spokesperson said this afternoon. “We hold firm, and again we say by all legal means necessary!”
Nor does Enbridge appear to have the consent of the Haisla First Nation, who claim the proposed Kitimat terminal as part of their ancestral territory.
Will Stephen Harper’s government proceed with the pipeline anyway?
“It would be politically wise for the Canadian Cabinet of Ministers (who hold the power over the final decision) to reject the Northern Gateway Pipeline because, quite simply, we are at a point where they are under enormous scrutiny,” said Eoin Madden, Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.
“Northern Gateway has garnered massive interest from media and the public, and we are in the long slide towards the 2015 federal elections. Canadians are looking for leadership on what the US President rightly calls the challenge of our generation: climate change. The polls are clear: British Columbians do not want this crazy destructive project to proceed. First Nations, via the Federal and Provincial Courts, hold the keys on whether the pipeline can be built legally. They have spoken very clearly: no means NO! Given that backdrop, an approval means short-term political pain for a shot at glory in the future. I expect a decision to approve the pipeline with onerous conditions (a type of delay), an outright delay on the final decision, or an outright rejection of the proposal.”
The same arguments apply to Clark’s government. Forcing this pipeline on British Columbians would most likely have negative political repercussions for years to come.