VANCOUVER - A former federal environment minister has joined the mounting fracas around the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, arguing the project is not in Canada's best interest and that Enbridge (TSX:ENB) is the "last company in North America" that should be permitted to do the job.

But David Anderson does not agree with his First Nations groups and environmentalists that have harsh words for the position taken by British Columbia's premier, instead lauding Christy Clark for playing her cards right.

"This harumphing and huffing and puffing and 'Christy Clark doesn't understand it' — She's smart as a fox on this one," Anderson said in an interview after joining several anti-pipeline activists who called on the premier to take a tougher stand.

"She understands that the whole concept of royalties must be brought up and we're going to have to shake that tree pretty hard and we don't know what's going to fall out of it. She's started that debate. No one has dared do it since Trudeau."

Last week, Clark walked out of talks at an annual premiers' meeting that included discussion about crafting a national energy strategy.

She declared Alberta must negotiate sharing economic benefits, just days after her ministers announced five preconditions that must be met in order for the province to even begin to consider shoring up its support.

Clark and opponents of the pipeline agree Alberta stands to gain the lion's share of economic benefits while B.C. takes on most of the environmental risks.

Clark has not clearly stated how much more she wants in exchange, or whether it would be skimmed from royalties. However, the government has said it's not interested in taxing Enbridge any further.

The $6-billion twin pipeline would flow crude from Alberta's oil sands to a port on B.C.'s west coast for export to Asia.

Regardless of his view that Clark has deftly handled the situation, the Victoria-based former Liberal cabinet minister came out swinging against Calgary-based Enbridge.

"Enbridge clearly has a cowboy culture quite inappropriate for building a pipeline in one of the most sensitive parts of the world," said Anderson, citing a series of Enbridge spills, one as recently as Friday in Wisconsin.

He said the company has demonstrated "years of inadequate behaviour," highlighting the oft-cited report by U.S. investigators that describes employees' response to a calamitous leak near Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 as the "Keystone Kops."

And he was critical of the company's failure to give the National Energy Board the names of the companies that will be contracted by Enbridge to get the bitumen from Alberta to Asia.

"We have not got the right regulatory system to analyze this effectively, they have not done an effective job in asking for information from the company, the company itself is not the right one and the place they want to put the port and pipeline is one of the worst," Anderson said.

A spokesman for Enbridge did not respond to a request for an interview.

But Clark's demand that B.C. receive greater compensation for potentially agreeing to take on the risk of an oil spill as a result of the pipeline didn't impress Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

The money doesn't matter, he said.

"No way, absolutely no way, will we allow or tolerate" the project, he said.

"We will fight this through the Joint Review Panel, which we are doing. We will fight this proposal in the courts and if necessary, we will oppose this proposal on the land itself."

Phillip called the struggle to shut down the project the largest issue he's ever had to deal with, characterizing it as "more significant" than both the 1990 Oka and 1995 Ipperwash land disputes in Quebec and Ontario.

The premier has been criticized both for not taking a strong enough stand and also for getting involved at all, with some experts arguing the project is ultimately a matter of federal jurisdiction.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake has suggested the province could block the pipeline by refusing to grant upwards of 60 permits or not allowing access to hydro power.

Prof. Jamie Lawson, at the University of Victoria, said technically Ottawa, could trump B.C.'s qualms by declaring the project to be of general advantage to Canada, or to two or more provinces.

"But that is something that means the federal government would be overriding provincial powers," he said. "And I think the federal government in recent years has been hesitant to use (it)."

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  • 10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP

    The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>

  • 9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980

    Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed

    Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.

    Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves

    Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>

  • 5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.

    One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry

    Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands

    Alberta' government <a href="" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

  • 2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat

    Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?

    The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.

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  • Top 5 Provincial Resource Spats

    Before the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline contract is even inked, not to mention approved by a federal panel, a heated quarrel has erupted between Alberta and British Columbia about divvying up the revenues.<br><br>It's not the first time in Canada that resources have spurred disputes between neighbouring provinces. And it likely won't be the last.<br><br>Here's a look at just a few examples of provincial spats, including the Alberta-B.C. one, over issues ranging from human to energy resources.<br><br> <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • Northern Gateway Pipeline

    Alberta vs. British Columbia<br><br>In the dispute over the proposed Enbridge pipeline, B.C. is calling for a share in the project's revenue to compensate it for the potential environmental risks inherent in running a crude oil pipeline across its land. Alberta has refused to share royalties, citing a province's right to income from natural resources within its own borders.<br><br>The proposal involves two pipelines, stretching a combined 1,177-kilometres, that would carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta oilsands to the ports on the West Coast. Enbridge has estimated that public benefits would amount to $2.6 billion in local, provincial and federal tax revenues over 30 years of operation. Environmental groups and aboriginal communities have opposed the proposed pipeline, particularly over worries of an oil spill.

  • Upper Churchill Falls Hydro Project

    Newfoundland vs. Quebec<br><br>Perhaps the most famous inter-provincial skirmish is the Upper Churchill Falls hydroelectric project. It's a battle that has raged between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador for more than half a century.<br><br>In 1969, Churchill Falls Labrador Corp. signed a deal with Hydro-Quebec that secured the creation of a power corridor through Quebec, enabling access to outside markets. In return, Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to sell a large portion of the electricity at a fixed rate until 2041 to Hydro-Quebec, the provincially owned utility.<br><br>The 65-year agreement did not account for inflation, nor the drastic rise in energy prices that was to come. Hydro-Quebec benefitted from the cheap price, profiting as it sold on the electricity to the U.S. and refused repeatedly to renegotiate the contract.<br><br>A 1996 report by Maclean's magazine found Newfoundland received $20 million a year by selling power to Hydro-Quebec, but the utility earned $800 million annually by selling that same power to hungry U.S. markets along the eastern seabord.<br><br>Since the 1970s, Newfoundland and Labrador has repeatedly tried to challenge the contract, seeking help from the federal government to the Supreme Court.

  • Construction Workers

    Ontario vs. Quebec<br><br>In the late 1970s, Ontario and Quebec began a tit-for-tat dispute over construction workers crossing the border to work in each other's province.<br><br>Dubbed the Ontario-Quebec Construction War in some newspaper accounts, the tiff appears to have started when Quebec enacted restrictions in 1978 effectively barring Ontario construction workers from certain projects there. Ontario sought to retaliate with similar rules. Thus began a political dispute that lasted decades, flare-ups often fuelled by economic downturns.<br><br>Quebec's highly-regulated construction industry has historically deterred Ontario workers wanting to work in Quebec -- while also driving Quebec workers into the more open Ontario.<br><br>Frustrated by the flow of workers into Ontario, Ontario enacted a Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act in 1999, barring Quebec construction workers from Ontario government projects. The two provinces eventually settled their differences in 2006 with a construction mobility agreement.

  • Timber Dispute

    Ontario vs. Manitoba<br><br>In Canada's early days, as boundaries were still being carved out, Ontario and Manitoba clashed for years over a tract of land on the western and northern boundaries of Ontario that each claimed as its own. An 1883 New York Times article described "frequent disgraceful conflicts" that "stopped short of bloodshed."<br><br>The tract was rich in timber and minerals, and also contained a port on Lake Superior.<br><br>In 1880, Manitoba extended its boundaries, with the federal government confirming them the next year.<br><br>But Ontario did not agree, saying the extension gave the disputed area to Manitoba. Confusion reigned in the disputed area as it lacked not only civil courts and a registry office to record deeds, but a timber agent to protect the forest. The U.K. judicial committee of the Privy Council finally weighed in. In 1889, the boundary of Ontario was extended west of Lake of the Woods and north to Albany River.

  • National Energy Program

    Alberta vs. Ottawa (and Ontario and Quebec)<br><br>In the wake of the energy crisis in the late-1970s, when the OPEC nations raised the price of oil, the Trudeau government introduced the National Energy Program, basically to equalize the price of oil in Canada and offset higher prices being paid the central and Atlantic provinces.<br><br>Highly unpopular in Western Canada, particularly in Alberta where most of Canada's oil is produced, the NEP sought to increase the federal share of energy revenues and make Canada a self-sufficient oil producer. Alberta viewed the program as an intrusion into provincial control over natural resources, as set out in the British North America Act, then the country's constitution.<br><br>Peter Lougheed, the Alberta premier at the time, retaliated against Ottawa by cutting provincial oil production. The fight caused huge uncertainty in the oil patch and essentially pitted the Western province against Eastern Canada. Lougheed said the federal government effectively "weighed Alberta's needs for markets against the economic advantages to Eastern Canada, and decided against us."<br><br>Eventually Lougheed and Trudeau signed a revised energy agreement in 1981, whch rejigged the revenue-sharing arrangement and reduced the NEP export tax on Alberta.<br><br>In 1982, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Ottawa couldn't legally tax provincially owned oil and gas wells and the last vestiges of the controversial program were scrapped after Conservative Brian Mulroney was elected in 1984.