It was likened to a ‘stay of execution’.
Allowing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline project to proceed in Kitimat, or through a re-routed Prince Rupert location would be akin to political suicide for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen last week.
Thanks to his campaign promises on implementing a North and Central Coast crude oil tanker ban, reneging on that promise after a three-year extension application by Enbridge for its project, would have “devastating political consequences far beyond the northwest,” said Cullen in late May, mentioning that he has heard the extension compared to a ‘stay of execution’.
“The project is sitting on death row and it has been for a long time and it just keeps trudging along, pretending it’s still alive when I think legally and politically, this thing was dead a long time ago,” the MP stated.
“I don’t know why you would want to invest more time and energy into something that has so obviously been rejected by British Columbians. Many people thought the last election in October did kill the project, when 65 per cent of the people in the House of Commons campaigned on a tanker ban that would kill it.”
The 1,177 km pipeline proposed to bring crude oil from Edmonton to Kitimat was approved by the National Energy Board (NEB) in 2014, with numerous conditions. That same NEB will review the three-year extension application from Enbridge while the company tries to acquire legal and regulatory certainty and continue discussions with First Nations.
“Support for our project has grown from 26 to 31 communities over the past two years and is continuing to grow,” a press release stated in May from Northern Gateway, continuing to say “Our goal is for Northern Gateway to help our young people to have a future where they can stay in their communities with training and work opportunities.”
A potential re-routing through Prince Rupert instead of Kitimat was an idea tossed around during a retreat in early May involving the prime minister and his cabinet.
“I’m not going to speculate on hypothetical routes. What I will say is the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline, for a crude pipeline,” said Prime Minister Trudeau after the retreat.
But Cullen is not satisfied with the current or re-routed project.
“When we asked [Trudeau] questions in the House, he’s starting to narrow his language down on what a tanker ban would be. Somehow I think he thinks Prince Rupert is not in the Great Bear Rainforest, but we’ll give him a map and help him out,” said the Skeena MP.
“I clearly understand the worry and desperation coming out of Alberta in terms of setting up some pipeline routes, but hooking your wagon to a roundly disliked and unsupported project isn’t going to make any sense for Mr. Trudeau, Alberta or anyone concerned with this topic.”
Cullen still awaits the processes associated with implementing the ban.
“We have the legislation ready to go and we’ve been asking the government when they’re planning to introduce it and so far we’ve heard nothing. People are moving from concern to real fears that Mr. Trudeau will actually betray his promise on the super tanker ban off the North Coast and that would have devastating political consequences far beyond the northwest, because people talk to each other. His commitments to First Nations have been very clear and if he were to start to break those in such a way, I think there would be real consequences,” Cullen said.
New ideas needed for school water help
While elementary and secondary school upgrades are normally dealt within the realm of the B.C. legislature in Victoria, Cullen said he’d be open to new avenues of support federally after learning of Prince Rupert’s infrastructure deficit during his last tour across the north.
“We’re in such a predicament, not just within our schools, but with our infrastructure in general, that so much of it is breaking down and is posing a real threat to our health and our kids’ health, that if there is anything innovative that the province and local communities want to suggest and we need some help from the federal government to do it, then I’d be willing to advocate,” he said.
“When a situation gets this bad, innovation and open minds are needed and perhaps that’s something we should consider right now, because I know the concerns in places like Prince Rupert are only growing as to where the money’s actually going to come from. Victoria really doesn’t seem to have much of a plan at all.”