BC Election 2013: With Pipelines At Risk Will Harper Stick His Nose In?

04/24/2013 02:19 EDT | Updated 06/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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Demonstrators hold a sign near the White House during a Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline demonstration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Pipeline opponents say extracting crude from sand emits three times more carbon than conventional oil production, contributing to global warming that Obama pledged to fight. They say their protest in Washington reflects public anger at corporate greed. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
With the third largest proven reserves of oil in the world, and limited means of shipping that oil to foreign markets, the implications of the B.C. election now reach well beyond provincial borders. 

Which party wins could seal the fate of two major pipeline projects proposed for the west coast of B.C. - the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and the Kinder Morgan expansion (yes, the same one that showered the suburbs in oil 5 years ago). 

For most Vancouverites, the thought of more oil tankers and pipelines along the pristine coastline of Vancouver is disturbing. While some tankers do ply the waters already, Vancouver is a major tourist destination whose economy relies heavily on its natural beauty and amazing ocean-scapes. 

But to overseas markets, the sound of more tarry bitumen being pumped onto ships destined for foreign lands would be a glorious symphony. Take China for instance, who has spoken very loudly about its frustration with Canada's "outdated" oil sands plans and slow-moving approval of new coastal pipelines.  

Adrian Dix, the leader of B.C.'s New Democratic Party and election front-runner, announced this week that his party officially opposes the Kinder Morgan project, telling reporters that:

"They are talking about an increase of five- or six-fold [in capacity] and I think that transforms Vancouver into a major oil export port. I don't think people in Vancouver see that as the right way to go, and I don't think that's the right way to go."

"It seems to me that increasing from 80,000 barrels a day to 450,000 barrels a day (exported from Metro Vancouver in tankers) is a massive change in the nature of that operation"

"That's a real problem."

As for the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal, Dix promises a new round of environmental assessments on the Northern Gateway pipeline, but has not voiced outright opposition to the project. Today's announcement regarding Kinder Morgan has some insiders speculating that Dix may be positioning his government-in-waiting to approve the Northern Gateway in the future. Although Dix clarified that his party, if in power, will not cede decision making on Northern Gateway to the federal government.

Polling over the years has consistently shown that, on average, 60 percent of British Columbians oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, while a recent poll finds that 57 percent of British Columbians oppose the Kinder Morgan plan. 

British Columbians clearly oppose both Kinder Morgan and the Northern gateway, but I wouldn't doubt we will see the pro-pipeline Harper federal government stick their nose into the B.C. election in the coming weeks, as they twist in the wind watching the fate of their beloved tar sands pipelines land right in the waiting hands of Adrian Dix and the NDP.