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Harper Just Picked A Pipeline Fight He Can't Win

06/18/2014 02:19 EDT | Updated 08/18/2014 05:59 EDT
CP

Stephen Harper has chosen to approve Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, despite the overwhelming opposition of the people of British Columbia, over 130 First Nations and the B.C. government itself.

Throwing his political weight behind this project is a major mistake, because this pipeline will not be built.

Even with a green light from the federal government, Enbridge faces many hurdles. Given the number and size of them the reality is Enbridge's tarsands pipeline won't see the light of day.

The first is B.C. Premier Christy Clark. Just yesterday the premier said that no current proposal meets the five conditions she laid out. Without a fulfillment of those five conditions, Premier Clark has said it won't be given B.C.'s approval.

The next hurdle is plans for a B.C.-wide referendum. The use of the referendum already caused the death of the HST in B.C. and with two out of three British Columbians opposing Enbridge Northern Gateway it may mean the end of Enbridge's pipeline plans as well.

Third are the court cases. Within minutes of the announcement, multiple First Nations announced that they would go to court to block the pipeline. Grand Chief Stewart Philip said they "are prepared to go to unprecedented lengths to conserve and protect our territories and waters from heavy oil."

Most First Nations in B.C. have never signed treaties and thus have greater legal rights and standing to determine what type of development goes forward on their territory. Over 130 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing tar sands development through their territories and the chances of a substantial legal victory stopping the pipeline is high.

The next hurdle, should it come to that, is the escalation of protests and the use of peaceful civil disobedience to stop the pipeline. Already over 20,000 people have pledged to join with First Nations to do whatever it takes to stop the pipeline and prevent the destruction it would bring with it.

The last hurdle is the 2015 battle box. Already both NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have declared if elected they would reverse Enbridge's approval and following Harper's rubber stamping the 21 B.C. Conservative seats are anything but safe.

In picking this fight, Harper will not only damage his own reputation in a doomed attempt to support a pipeline that has no chance of survival, but also puts Conservative seats at risk in next year's federal election.

Tuesday's decision starts the fight, but it is a long way from over.

It is unfortunate that our prime minister chose the wrong side. It's now up to us to make sure he knows it.

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Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Protest, June 2014