The Haisla First Nation live in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, on the west coast near the aluminum town of Kitimat. The town's massive smelter has long been a sore spot among the Haisla, dropped into their traditional territory in the pro-development 1950 without consultation or substantial compensation. Now, the Haisla find themselves on the front lines of one of the most important Canadian environmental and development debates of the 21st century, but they are no longer the powerless victims of a half century ago. If Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proceeds, it will terminate on Haisla territory.
The point Justin Trudeau, and largely the rest of Canada, has missed is the role British Columbia will play moving forward in Canada. If it's not obvious, it should be by now. With Vancouver MP Joyce Murray announcing her run for leader of the Liberal Party today, it's slowly setting the pace to which B.C. politicians will begin to take a more active role in shaping the country's policy.
Domestic provincial considerations have complicated the viability of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project. One major barrier to the development of the Northern Gateway pipeline is the parochial interests of B.C.'s premier, Christy Clark who has demanded a "fair share" of the benefits from the pipeline. Lifting the moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity on Canada's west coast has the potential to resolve inter-provincial in-fighting over pipelines by ensuring British Columbia is a larger beneficiary of Canada's energy renaissance.
So why do people insist, despite the evidence, that the Northern Gateway go to Prince Rupert? It's no longer a pipeline; it's emotion and ideology. Ideology in that opposition to the Northern Gateway is seen by conservatives as heretical opposition to free enterprise itself. Emotion among those who see promoting the oil patch as an issue of "Alberta pride" and even Canadian patriotism. For the promoters of the pipeline to Prince Rupert, ignoring the science of geology and the study of geography across all of northwestern B.C. is no different than repeatedly knocking your head against the Paleozoic metamorphic greenstone of the mountain cliffs along the Skeena. It only gives you a headache.
When B.C. Premier Christy Clark outlined her five conditions last month for possibly approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, her demand for a "fair share" of Alberta's petro-royalities brought howls and screams of outrage from east of the Rockies. The media depiction of Clark's conditions as something new is completely inaccurate.
As the battle over Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline plays out, two key questions about the moral make-up of Canada will be answered. First, will we as a nation respond to climate change with a renewed commitment to conventional energy and conventional economic growth? Second, will large companies be allowed to bulldoze through unceded Aboriginal territory without local consent?
We need a balance between ecology and economics, between the effects of the tar sands and the money it makes. However, this approach does not conform to the narrow and myopic world view of the Harper Conservatives. The Conservative majority rests on less than 40 per cent of the vote, yet for them this justifies demonizing and dismissing the other 60-plus per cent.