As our government proposes that we become a "super highway" for oil tankers they are simultaneously reducing both the prevention and the response capacity to deal with an accident in what is already Canada's busiest port. This represents a perfect storm of the conditions that could lead to an oil spill.
The criticism of B.C. Premier Christy Clark's strategy regarding negotiations over Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is unwarranted. Clark has been clear on what the province requires in order to move forward with construction of the pipeline in Northern B.C. while her Alberta counterpart has given her little to work with. Clark said herself, it's her job to fight for B.C. and our environment. She's absolutely right, and we should all be in her corner cheering her on.
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.
The "national energy strategy" recently debated by the provincial premiers is going nowhere fast, not least because the "national" part is completely meaningless. If one province needs the cooperation of another province, for example, to export power or resources across provincial boundaries -- pipelines from Alberta, hydro power from Newfoundland -- this is a matter to be resolved by the affected provinces, not Ottawa.
Enbridge has a credibility problem. They're an oil pipeline company. They're out for themselves and people know that. That's probably why they've invested in a $5 million ad campaign assuring the audience that the company's oil pipeline and supertanker project is "more than a pipeline, it's a path to our future." This is the brainchild of PR company Hill and Knowlton, "the public relations company famous for the unsavoury nature of its clients." But they're not fooling anyone these days.
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?