NORTHERN GATEWAY PIPELINE: Not in National Interest Let Alone BC’s

NORTHERN GATEWAY PIPELINE: Column from Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko.

Few without ties to oil industry could say with a straight face that the proposal by Enbridge to build the Northern Gateway pipeline over 800 fish-bearing rivers and streams is in the best interests of Canadians or that it meets the criteria of what constitutes sustainable development.  It is impossible to ignore the significant environmental concerns, which include damage related to the construction of the pipeline as well as the inevitability of oil spills along the pipeline and from 300 oil tankers a year navigating the hazardous waters on the northwest coast of BC.  Spills of this nature would jeopardize the fishing and tourism industries in BC putting tens of thousands of livelihoods and the stability of those communities at risk.

The wild salmon economy alone generates $1.7 billion each year in BC.The Enbridge record of 800 spills since 1998 does little to inspire confidence that a project of this magnitude through such remote and sensitive ecosystems will be managed without incident.  The company has yet to clean up the 800,000 gallons of oil it spilled that leaked into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July 2010.  What is more, the temporary jobs in construction and a handful of permanent jobs we will see in BC after the project is finished hardly makes it worth taking such enormous risks.  Development of the oil sands should take place within the context of a coherent and credible national energy strategy that will be good for the Canadian economy and good for our environment, one that has a transition to green energy and renewable technologies at its core.  That’s where real and lasting jobs can be created in more localized economies across the country. It is unacceptable that this Conservative government chases one raw bitumen pipeline project after another which serves only corporate profit interests to the detriment of our national interests.

I believe that the environmental assessment process must include the voices of anyone who has a stake in the outcome.  The Harper government and his fellow spin doctors have been declaring opponents to this project as “radicals” and trying to slander them as representing foreign interests. It is entirely hypocritical that Mr. Harper should consider foreign oil interests his friends while branding people who care about our shared global environment as his enemies.  This is especially true since in many cases the companies that are profiting from oil-sands development are themselves partially foreign owned.  Climate change will not respect international borders and since per-barrel emissions in the oil sands will only continue to rise, all nations have an interest in how Canada develops this resource.  There is nothing radical about wanting to pass on a healthy environment to future generations and for having an expectation that our precious and finite natural resources be developed in a sustainable manner with maximum benefits to Canadians.

What is radical is Harper’s short-sighted evisceration of the laws meant to protect our environment, the firing of government scientists and pulling Canada out of international efforts to fight catastrophic climate change. The government’s moves to abrogate its duty to ensure comprehensive environmental assessments for major projects, in what it had assured Canadians would be an arms-length and independent joint review panel process, must continue to be challenged.  Alex Atamanenko, MPBC Southern Interior