09/07/2012 06:16 EDT | Updated 11/07/2012 05:12 EST

Enbridge 'doesn't want a spill,' executive says

The executive spearheading the Northern Gateway pipeline says Enbridge knows it needs to do more to convince the public the project is safe and that the company will clean up if a spill occurs.

Janet Holder, executive vice-president of western access for Enbridge, told reporters in Edmonton that those details have been taken into consideration.

"First of all, what's very important is to understand the safety standards that we've built into this pipeline," Holder said. "We are at world-class standards and we've gone beyond those. We are doing everything in our power to mitigate against a spill.

"Believe me, Enbridge doesn't want a spill. It is not what we're in the business for."

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. wants to build the $6 billion pipeline in order to transport raw bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat, B.C., where it can then be shipped to Asian markets.

Federal minister in Vancouver to defend safety record

Meanwhile, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was at the Port of Vancouver on Friday morning also reassuring residents about the safety of oil tankers.

Oliver says tankers have been moving through the busy port for decades without a spill, showing safety is a priority for the industry.

"This commitment to protecting the environment is reflected in Port Metro Vancouver's outstanding record for safely shipping Canadian energy supplies to foreign markets."

In the last five years just over 1,300 tankers have safely arrived at the port , noted Oliver, and the federal government is already implementing even stronger safety and environmental standards.

"We will have world-class safety measures in place," he said.

Oliver also pushed the economic benefits, saying natural resources foot the bill for much of Canada's high standard of living.

The proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline is not the only project that could lead to a huge spike in tanker traffic on the West Coast.

A proposal by Kinder Morgan to nearly triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline has also raised concerns in Vancouver where the crude oil is loaded on tankers at the Burnaby terminal and moved through the busy port.

Critics of the pipelines say no system to prevent spills is foolproof, and even B.C. Premier Christy Clark has raised concerns that B.C. stands to gain little economic benefit from any new pipeline.

The project has met with widespread opposition in British Columbia, particularly among environmentalists and First Nations people who worry about the potential damage to inland and coastal areas that would be caused by a pipeline leak.

The province of British Columbia has also raised questions about whether the company will spend enough money on safety and clean-up efforts.

A joint review panel is holding hearings on the project in Edmonton this week.