Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP, Nathan Cullen says that the Conservative’s plan to give themselves final say on the fate of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline has confirmed the fears of pipeline opponents: that the joint review panel process is a sham.
“The process was always threatened. A lot of people suspected that Stephen Harper wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to this pipeline. Now that has been made explicit.”
Besides imposing an 18 month time limit on all environmental reviews done by the National Energy Board, the Tories have made one small, but significant change as well. Up until now, only if the panel approved a project did that decision have to be submitted to the federal cabinet for final approval.
The new rules say that even if the decision is to reject the project, the cabinet will have to approve that as well, essentially giving them the power to force the National Energy Board to reconsider their decision.
This change has been all but hidden during the rolling out of the Environmental Review process overhaul this past week. It was only referenced in a single bullet point on a list of goals for making reviews more timely, located on a website for the Conservatives’ Economic Action plan. It reads:
“Establish clearer accountability for decisions on major pipeline projects in the national interest by giving government authority to make the “go/no go” decisions, based on the recommendations of the National Energy Board.”
Cullen says that by giving themselves the final say, the Conservatives have made the Joint Review Panel hearings inconsequential.
“They will retroactively apply these new rules and it will become a purely political decision, and the Prime Minister – with all of his wisdom about pipelines – is going to make the final decision. This totally undermines the process we are in . . . the credibility of the Joint Review Panel has been totally destroyed by this government,” says Cullen.
According to Cullen it’s time for the Provincial Government to get involved.
Christy Clark and the Liberal Government have steered clear of stating an opinion on the Northern Gateway pipeline saying that it was prudent to let the hearing process run its course before making a decision. Cullen argues that now that Conservatives have unilaterally changed that process in this way, that excuse will no longer fly.
The Joint Review Panel hearings are still going ahead, with the next ones in Prince Rupert being scheduled for May 24, 25, 26, 28, 29 at the North Coast Meeting and Convention Centre. This will be the first opportunity for Rupertities to give their opinion on the pipeline without being hindered by procedural rules.
Cullen says that he doesn’t want to dissuade people from participating, saying that it’s still an opportunity for people to go and have their say. He says that he still plans to go and participate.
“I’ll have a question for [the Joint Review Panel]: Did you know this was coming, and now that it’s happened, do you still think you are still credible? Do you still exist if your mandate has been ripped away from you?”