Churches across Canada say they have a religious duty to speak out on the proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.
Next week, delegates at the United Church of Canada general council meeting in Ottawa are to debate a resolution that calls on the church to reject construction of the $6-billion Enbridge (TSX:ENB)project that would take diluted bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
The resolution was drafted in support of aboriginals in B.C., who worry a spill would poison the land and water, and directs the church to send the results of its vote to the federal, B.C. and Alberta governments and the media.
Mardi Tindal, moderator of the United Church, said care of the Earth is an important part of the faith and the church can't shy away from the pipeline just because it is controversial and politically divisive.
"People care so much about this. People understand that you cannot separate economic health from ecological health," she said from Toronto.
"The church has a responsibility to contribute to the conversations that make for the best public policy for the common good."
The United Church of Canada is not alone.
Earlier this year, the Anglican Bishops of British Columbia and Yukon issued a statement that questioned the integrity of the pipeline's environmental impact review.
The diocese of New Westminster of the Anglican Church of Canada has declared its outright opposition to Northern Gateway, and is looking at excluding Enbridge stock from the diocese's investment portfolio.
A group representing 28 Presbyterian churches in B.C.'s Lower Mainland has written a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that accuses the government of weakening environmental reviews and demonizing people who oppose projects as radicals trying to sabotage Canada's economy.
In her letter to Harper, Rev. Diane Tait-Katerberg wrote there is already "overwhelming evidence the government of Canada has already made up its mind about the safety of these projects, and is arranging things so that nothing stands in the way of the development of the oilsands and the approval of these pipelines."
There is so much buzz about the pipeline in religious circles that the ecumenical justice organization Kairos has written a primer on the Enbridge project entitled Ethical Reflections on the Northern Gateway Pipeline. It's meant to help churches make their own value judgments on the project.
The primer says Northern Gateway presents intersecting challenges for the economy, ecology and Canada's relations with aboriginal people.
It says the focus on the anticipated wealth the pipeline would create threatens to obscure the magnitude of the profound challenges it would pose to the environment.
"In a very immediate way, Northern Gateway threatens the survival of the First Nations whose territory it would cross," the report says.
"A spill would devastate livelihoods, the land, food sources and the ability to pass on to future generations values, principles, languages and core aspects of how these people's cultures are practised."
Kairos member churches include the Anglican Church of Canada, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada.
Ed Bianchi, a Kairos spokesman, said the report is impartial on Northern Gateway.
"I don't think it is a political issue. I think it is an issue that is of concern to our society because it has so many potential impacts on so many people," he said.
Enbridge said it has no problem with churches weighing in with their opinions on Northern Gateway. But the Calgary-based corporation added it is concerned about whether people are basing their opinions on facts.
Enbridge vice-president Janet Harder said the company has been working hard to explain the project to people who live along its 1,200-kilometre route, but hasn't done enough to explain it to the rest of Canada.
Harder said Enbridge plans to release more information this fall about the environmental standards it would have for the pipeline and how the company would protect the ocean from spills. The information could include an advertising campaign in B.C. and Alberta and perhaps the rest of the country.
As well, she said, more facts will come out during the next phase of joint review panel hearings that begin in Edmonton next month. Government and intervener groups will be able to ask Enbridge detailed questions about the project.
Harder is confident people who are saying 'no' to the pipeline now may change their position before the panel wraps up by the end of next year.
"We don't need to win the hearts and minds of people over the next couple of months," she said. "We do have time to communicate and help people understand what this project is all about."
The intervener phase is to run from Sept. 4 to Sept. 28. It is to examine the economic need for the project, how it would be financed and the toll structure it would use.
When the hearings shift to Prince George, B.C., in October, the panel is to hear questions on the environmental effects of the pipeline and Enbridge's plans to deal with accidents and malfunctions.
The final questions phase to be held in Prince Rupert, B.C., in November and December is to look at the potential impacts of the pipeline on aboriginals and the environmental risks of shipping bitumen by super tanker in the waters along the rugged B.C. coast.
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.
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.
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.
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="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" 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="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" 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="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" 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="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" 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="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" 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="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" 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="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands
Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" 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="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" 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="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.