Working in Alberta, the belly of the tar sands beast, the odds are often overwhelming but, over the past few months, something has changed. The resistance to the tar sands has not only grown in leaps and bounds, it is changing the dynamics of the entire fight.
There is a famous Chinese curse that goes "may you live in interesting times." The government ushered in some interesting times indeed on September 12...
"In the lawsuit filed today, we argue that due to fundamental flaws in the JRP's report, Cabinet was deprived of the legal authority to make a final decision on the pipeline," Chris Tollefson, ELC executive director and lawyer for BC Nature, said.
Approval was given despite the negative findings of hundreds of scientists from across Canada and around the world who signed a letter to Prime Minister Harper in June. Indeed, Harper could hardly reject a pipeline in his own country when he had told the most powerful leader in the world in September 2013 that he "won't take no for an answer" on the Keystone XL pipeline.
The truth is that Northern Gateway is important to both British Columbia's and Canada's future. It will open up new markets for our most valuable resource, creating thousands of jobs and new opportunities for British Columbians and Canadians. And, by incorporating leading measures for safety and environmental protection, we are designing a project that delivers these benefits while also protecting our environment.
The Conservative government's decision to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline is the greatest threat to national unity since the Quebec crisis in 1995. It is reminiscent of Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program of 1980, except in that case the program could be and was cancelled. This is, simply put, an "up yours" to our province of B.C.
Using an outdated and tired argument that economic development can only come at the expense of our environment, David Miller recently dismissed Northern Gateway as wrong for Canada. I respect Mr. Miller, but I firmly disagree with his assessment.
Terry Teegee doesn't seem too worried about the Harper government's recent approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. According to the tribal chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, the announcement's low profile signals waning support for the pipeline from the prime minister.
Whatever the final government deal is with the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF), and whenever it's settled, the BCTF must quit opposing economic growth if it ever hopes to accomplish its long-term salary and class size goals.
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 federal government's failure to respect the will of British Columbians is particularly ironic. In 1980 when Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program, Albertans were outraged. They argued that it was utterly inappropriate for the federal government to interfere with their energy policy as it was deemed to be within provincial jurisdiction. Have we not learned anything from history?
Anyone claiming this pipeline is a done deal is ignoring the fact that Enbridge faces a major uphill battle. The federal government's approval of the pipeline was likely the easiest hurdle that Enbridge had to jump. The Harper government and Big Oil are looking East because they think it is an easier road to tar sands expansion than the road to the West. We can turn this project that Stephen Harper calls a "nation builder" into a movement builder. Energy East, its review and Harper's pipeline plans need a People's Intervention. Now it's our chance to give it to them. It is easy to approve a pipeline, but a whole lot harder to build one.
The risk to this place posed by Enbridge's Northern Gateway project is both serious and unmanageable. I have sailed along the Great Bear's channels. Even in a calm season it is apparent, those waters are as treacherous as they are precious. It is not a question of if an accident will happen, but a question of when and how bad.
A pipeline to carry diluent from the coast to the tar sands to dilute bitumen that would then be carried back to the coast in another pipeline for export to world markets in supertankers does not have a "sufficiently direct connection" to the tar sands? And the impacts of the tar sands and its products on climate are not relevant to the project that makes these impacts possible? What the hell? This project should never go ahead.
First Nations will undoubtedly take the project to court and if need be, tens of thousands of British Columbians have pledged to stand with them and take direct action to stop this pipeline. Hopefully it won't have to come to that. Ultimately, if after everything, Enbridge still tries to ram their pipeline through B.C., it may make Clayoquot Sound look like a walk in the park. Assuming he doesn't surprise us by rejecting Enbridge outright, Harper will end up regretting that he didn't oppose this pipeline, as it will likely cost him some critical seats in a close election.
While we're pleased that federal and provincial regulators finally took action and laid charges against Plains Midstream, the size and nature of the settlements is somewhat disconcerting. It raises a number of questions and once again sheds light on the major weaknesses in Canada's environmental law and enforcement framework.