Just when it seemed the Northern Gateway pipeline was a defunct project, the crude oil carrier landed back on the tongues of politicians.
The prime minister and some of his cabinet met with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley during a three-day retreat last week while secluded admist the mountains of Kananaskis, Alberta. Notley then spoke to reporters about their discussions of rerouting Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway from Kitimat to Prince Rupert.
“We had a bit of a back and forth on it, but it wasn’t a big part of the conversation,” Notley said after meeting Trudeau on Sunday, April 17.
The fact that the pipeline is being discussed is confusing for some considering that Trudeau has opposed the Northern Gateway, and even promised a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on the North Coast.
The Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who is also the environment and climate change critic, emailed his response regarding the political discussions and media reports last Thursday.
“I’m stunned,” Cullen said during constituency meetings on Haida Gwaii. “Mr. Trudeau is on record over and over again as saying ‘the Northern Gateway Pipeline will not happen.’”
“He has twice voted in favour of a North Coast tanker ban in the House, promised it repeatedly during the federal campaign and included it in the mandate letter to his Transport Minister,” he said.
The $7-billion pipeline was approved by the previous Conservative government in June 2014. Trudeau campaigned against the 1,177-km twin pipeline system and marine terminal that would bring 525,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Edmonton to Kitimat.
Enbridge has to meet 209 conditions in the 2014 permit from the federal government in order to build the pipeline in Kitimat.
But residents of the region have opposed the pipeline. Some First Nations and environmental groups are challenging the approval of the project in court because they believe the proponent has failed to consider environmental threats.
On the last day of the Kananskis retreat, Trudeau fielded questions about the Northern Gateway project and if he was considering another route in Prince Rupert.
“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,” Trudeau said to reporters. “There is no changing on my thinking. My thinking has always been that we need to get our resources to market, but we need to do that in responsible, sustainable, thoughtful ways.”
Cullen said that Trudeau is wavering and that the prime minister hints at a weaker moratorium and seems to be backtracking on his opposition to the proposed pipeline. This, he warned, “would be disastrous to Liberal attempts to improve government-to-government working relations with First Nations.” He added that Trudeau shouldn’t play politics with wild salmon and the marine environment.
A spokesperson for Enbridge did not confirm whether or not they are investigating possible alternatives.
“Northern Gateway has no current plans for a route change, however we are committed to building this critical Canadian infrastructure and we are open to change,” said the manager of communications for Northern Gateway, Ivan Giesbrecht, in an email.
“Our priority is to continue to build respectful dialogues with First Nations and Métis communities. These conversations are on-going. We believe that First Nations and Métis communities should be environmental stewards and shared owners in projects that cross their lands.”