This week’s Enbridge hearings paint a pretty telling picture of the mood of people in the region as it relates to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline review process and the project itself.
When well over 150 people sign up to talk about a project and less than a third of them bother to show up, there is a pretty fundamental flaw in the system. Now people back east could look at this and say ‘well people don’t care enough about the project to have their voices heard’, but those who would be effected by the project are so disenfranchised that the thought is more along the lines of “why bother, they’re going to approve it regardless”.
Normally this kind of skepticism is fairly easy to counter, but in this case it is tough to deny that the panel coming to Prince Rupert and the communities across the northwest is just a shell of its former self and has lost most of the relevance and importance it once carried. As soon as the government decided that it should be cabinet deciding whether the project is approved or not, there really was no reason to keep this panel going. Instead, it should have been the Cabinet going to the people to find out their perspectives – something we all know would never happen.
The truth of the matter is that this review panel could go back to the government and say “over the course of many months we visited numerous communities and the loudest message we heard was concerns about what this project could do to the environment, and therefore we cannot support the approval of it”. In turn, the government could say “that’s nice, thanks for all your time and effort, but we disagree – this project is a go”.
Essentially the joint review panel has no more say in whether this project moves forward than I do. Much like myself, they can make a recommendation and give their point of view, but it doesn’t have to guide the final decision.
At this point I’m with most out there in thinking the Harper government will green-light the project. But I still don’t think we’ll see this project become a reality in the decades to come.
By the time residents, First Nations, environmental groups and others get done with court challenges, lawsuits and anything else they may do to “protect” the coast, it’s going to be a long and costly endeavor for those concerned.