Passing the Pipeline Would Be Harper's Political Suicide

06/03/2013 03:46 EDT | Updated 08/02/2013 05:12 EDT
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CUSHING, OK - MARCH 22: Pipe is stacked at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. U.S. President Barack Obama is pressing federal agencies to expedite the section of the Keystone XL pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Even with BC Premier Christy Clark's government firmly rejecting tar sand giant Enbridge's proposed northern gateway pipeline project, there is still an outside chance that Prime Minister Stephen Harper could try and ram the project through.

In its official response [pdf] to the joint review panel for the northern gateway project, the BC government cites major concerns about Enbridge's ability to handle a major spill, as the reason for not supporting the project.

As the BC government states clearly in their 99-page response, Enbridge acknowledges that a spill is likely inevitable, and their track record over the past decade proves that:

"NG [northern gateway] does not dispute that there may be spills from the pipeline. While the project will be new, and built using modern technology, the fact remains that pipeline spills do happen. Indeed, Enbridge had 11 releases greater that 1,000 barrels between 2002 and 2012."

Obviously this is great news for the vocal opponents of the pipeline (including myself), affected First Nations, tourism operators and all the businesses and communities that rely on BC's coastal waters for their livelihood.

But this is not the final chapter.

As the decision-making for the gateway project is currently set up, it is the federal government and Stephen Harper who technically have the final say. Will Horter, Executive Director of the Dogwood Initiative points out:

"The fight's not over. Ottawa could still attempt to force this unwanted project on an unwilling province over B.C.'s objections, but I think many British Columbians would not take kindly to that."

Horter's absolutely right, British Columbians would not take kindly to an Alberta pro-tar sands Prime Minister ramrodding through a decision in the face of opposition from so many different constituencies.

In my personal opinion, it would be political suicide. Such a move by Harper would not only alienate the Prime Minister's support base in BC, it would also likely tick off a lot of other provinces, who would be left wondering if they will be the next victim of such bully tactics.

Time will tell how this will inevitably play out, but Christy Clark's bold decision and leadership on this issue is refreshing, and no doubt has Stephen Harper and his Albertan crew sweating.

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