VICTORIA - Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline gathered Sunday for a protest school of sorts, in preparation for what they hope will be a massive show of environmental force on Monday.
An estimated 300 protesters, who organizers say are willing to risk arrest, attended the day-long protest boot camp being offered by Defend Our Coast, the coalition of environmental groups behind the sit-in planned Monday on the grounds of the provincial legislature in Victoria.
Spokesman Peter McHugh said the group hopes at least a thousand people will come out to show the provincial government that British Columbia voters do not want a pipeline or tanker port proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc (TSX:ENB).
McHugh said protesters do not take lightly the prospect of civil disobedience, and they hope the protest is peaceful.
"It's not our first choice as Canadians, but when the government doesn't listen, and the people we've elected are not representing the people that elected them, civil disobedience is a tactic," he said.
The provincial government is not in session, and no one from Victoria police was available to discuss their plans for the protest.
About 4,500 people have signed an online pledge on the group's website promising support for the protest in Victoria and another provincewide protest is planned for Wednesday at MLA offices in 55 communities throughout the province.
For some, the Northern Gateway pipeline has become a lightning rod for discontent not only with the expansion of the Alberta oil sands, but with the provincial Liberal government and the federal Conservative government that has made sweeping changes to environmental laws.
The protests have garnered support from unions including the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Canadian Auto Workers, the B.C. Teacher's Federation, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union.
They have the backing of Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the Council of Canadians and several First Nations, and have been endorsed by high-profile activists such as David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis. Celebrity supporters include filmmaker Michael Moore, singers Sarah Harmer and Dan Mangan, and actors Ellen Page, Mark Ruffalo and Darryl Hannah.
The $6-billion pipeline project would carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through northern B.C. to a tanker port in Kitimat in one pipe, and condensate from Kitimat east to Alberta in another.
Enbridge has estimated that opening up Asian markets to Canadian oil would boost Canada's GDP by $270 billion over 30 years, and would generate $81 billion in direct and indirect revenues to the federal and provincial governments. Of that, B.C. would receive about $6 billion, while Ottawa would receive about $36 billion and Alberta $32 billion.
Environmental review hearings in Prince George, B.C., have been adjourned for one week, and will resume Oct. 29.
The three-member panel review panel has until the end of next year to complete its report and — if approved —Enbridge's most recent projections have the pipeline up and running in 2018.
George Hoberg was one of the protesters attending boot camp on Sunday.
"I believe we have a climate emergency and politics, as usual, is not working so we need to engage in direct action and other forms of disruption to ensure politicians understand the importance of this issue to citizens and to future generations," said the professor in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia.
"I want politicians to wake up and understand that there will be serious political consequences if they push these projects through."
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he will be in Victoria on Monday.
"The Harper Government has clearly demonstrated that it is only their blatant sell-out to industry agenda that matters," Phillip said in a statement.
He said environmental laws "are being systematically bulldozed aside in Parliament to the delight and benefit of tar sands development projects such as the Northern Gateway Enbridge project and the expansion of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline."
Kinder Morgan has proposed its own $4.1-billion Trans Mountain project that would expand an existing pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver.
— By Dene Moore in Vancouver
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Northern Gateway President John Carruthers
(Sept. 4) - Northern Gateway president John Carruthers argues the pipeline is just as important to Canada as the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Canadian Pacific Railway..."when constructed, [they] laid the foundation for significant benefits for generations of Canadians. Our project is no different."
Robert Mansell, U of C School of Public Policy
(Sept. 4) - Robert Mansell, academic director of the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, argued the benefits the pipeline could have for Canada. "Just imagine a situation where, if not for Northern Gateway, you had shut in 525,000 barrels per day for one year. That loss works out to $40-million a day, or $14.4-billion per year," he said.
Leanne Chahley, lawyer for the Alta. Federation of Labour
(Sept. 4) - Leanne Chahley, a lawyer for the Alberta Federation of Labour, questioned the estimated economic gains. "It's still a social science that you're involved in, economics. How much degree of certainty should we give it?"
Gil McGowan, Alta. Federation of Labour President
(Sept. 4 ) - Albert a Federation of Labour argues the $6-billion line would mean 5% less refinery in Alberta and the loss of 8,000 jobs. "China is in the midst of a building boom in terms of refineries and refining capacity, so our fear is that if our policymakers allow this pipeline to be built we'll end up in a situation where our own homegrown refineries are no longer economic and they'll close down," federation president Gil McGowan said. "We'll end up in a situation where we're sending our raw bitumen oil to China and then buying back the refined product."
John Carruthers, Northern Gateway President
(Sept. 4) - Northern Gateway president John Carruthers on the Enbridge's committment to environmental responsibility: "It involves assessing, in the same objective fashion, and according to the same standards, the information or evidence that has been presented by those who are opposed to the development of our project. And it culminates in approving the project under a framework of conditions that will promote reconciliation over division, and fact over rhetoric."
John Risdale, B.C. First Nations Chief
(May 2012) - B.C. First Nations leaders travel to the step of the Alberta Legislature to voice their concerns on the environmental damage. "The pipeline route that they have proposed is following the most major river system that we have and when the river is ruined, the people are ruined, the land is ruined," said Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation.
Terry Lake, B.C. Environment Minister
(Sept. 4) - B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake on how Enbridge plans to exceed world standards in spill prevention. "We certainly want to clarify with Enbridge some of the comments made over $500-million more of safety improvements and what exactly will that mean," Lake says. "In terms of monitoring, in terms of response capability, how can we ensure that any proponent would have to live up to what we consider world class response and mitigation measures."
Economist Robert Mansell, U Of C School Of Public Policy
(Sept. 5) - <strong>On the chance that the proposed Nothern Gateway pipeline would have a negative effect on central Canada's manufacturing sector</strong>: "It is not credible that one could argue this would cause Dutch disease." "Would it do, as has been alleged -- cause the rate of inflation to go up and then force the monetary authorities to tighten the money supply and thereby shrink the economy? The answer is no. "Monetary policy is based on what's called the Core Inflation Rate, which excludes the price of food and energy."
Texas-Based Energy Consultant Muse Stancil
(Sept. 5) - <strong>In a report submitted to the hearing, Texas-based energy consultant Muse Stancil said the Northern Gateway will have an effect on oil pricing in North America:</strong> "It can be expected to have a material effect on the distribution patterns and pricing dynamics for Western Canadian crude, as crude producers for the first time will have a high-volume alternative to their historical markets within North America," said the Muse Stancil report. "Northern Gateway allows the Canadian crude producers to both stop selling to their least attractive refiner clients (from a pricing prospective) and reduces their need to ship heavy crude via comparatively expensive rail transport."
Richard Johnston, UBC Political Scientist
Sept. 5 - <strong>On the chance the federtal Tories could lose ground in B.C. due to unfriendly policies such as support of pipelines to the west coast:</strong> "Among the risks to their base, I would put Northern Gateway highest," Johnston said. "The risk/benefit ratio (for B.C.) is massively unfavourable in itself and if the government were to force the issue pre-emptively, they would add an additional dimension to the debate, singling out one province for ill-treatment, rather like the NEP and Alberta. I expect Conservative MPs are worrying about this aloud."
Elisabeth Graff, B.C. government lawyer
(Sept. 7) - "Are you willing to acknowledge this is a complex organizational structure that limits the liability of a corporate giant that definitely would have sufficient funds?" she asked. "What we're left with is an entity which you tell us has the financial resources necessary to cover any type of spill, but we're still doubting whether that is possible." "No, I just fundamentally can't accept that," replied Mr. Carruthers. "Because of the investment, everyone would want to make sure there's proper funding available in case of a spill," he said.
Janet Holder, Enbridge senior executive
(Sept. 7) - "We're doing everything in our power to mitigate against a spill." "Believe me, Enbridge doesn't want a spill. It's not what we're in the business for. We're in the business of moving very safely, environmentally sound and in a sustainable way, product from one spot to another."
Geoff Plant, B.C.'s head lawyer for the hearings
(Sept. 7) - "The question [is] whether Enbridge is actually capable of getting the kind of insurance to ensure against the risk of liability," on whether the insurance is there should an oil spill happen.
Barry Robinson, lawyer for three environmental organizations
(Sept. 8) - "If free market economies aren't at play, where's the economic benefit?" asked Robinson about the economic effects of the hypothetical possibility of Chinese interests buying control of the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Kelowna resident James MacGregor
(Spet. 6) - The Avaaz petition <a href="http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Enbridges_Northern_Gateway_pipeline/?whtizcb" target="_hplink">"No Enbridge Tankers/Pipeline in BC Great Bear Rainforest"</a> was started by James MacGregor and has since passed 10,000 signatures. "BC's entire Great Bear Rainforest, its wildlife and the livelihoods of coastal First Nations are all at great risk if Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline is approved," he said. "I know I'm not the only one out there speaking up about the pipeline, but I felt like I couldn't sit back and do nothing." (Source: <a href="http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/petition-opposing-northern-gateway-pipeline-clears-10000-signatures" target="_hplink">Vancouver Observer</a>)
Hana Boye, lawyer for Haisla First Nation
(Sept. 17) - On who could end up with ownership stakes: "If we don't know who these investors are, we're not able to determine if they're financially viable, if they're market-force driven or if it's in the interest of Canadians," she said.
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Chris Peters, Engineer
(Sept. 17)- Peters argues that an approval of the pipeline might mean a setback to Canada's national climate change policy aims to reduce such emissions to by 2020. That cost "should be recorded as a negative and a cost to the planet," said Peters.
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Terry Lake, B.C. Environment Minister
(Sept. 17) - In the worry that in the event of a spill, Enbridge won't have tge insurance to cover the clean-up costs: "Enbridge and Northern Gateway are very aware of that concern now, so we'll look to their response. But we've made it clear that taxpayers will not be left on the hook," Lake said. "I think that the company would argue they have the resources necessary. What British Columbians want to see is an ironclad guarantee that they do have the resources necessary, that the structure and the insurance in place will protect British Columbians from the cost of any adverse event," he added.