Polarized by the Enbridge Northern Gateway

Prince Rupert took to the national stage this weekend, with over 1,000 people marching along McBride Street.

Prince Rupert took to the national stage this weekend, with over 1,000 people marching along McBride Street as part of a full day “Say no to tankers” rally against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

Of course the spectacle of that many people making a stand against something they strongly oppose was helped quite a bit by the presence of famous faces like Bif Naked, Rafe Mair and others. Having famous people make the trip up north always seems to have more of an impact on the provincial and national media than were they not here or involved. The political debate surrounding Enbridge even made its presence felt in the opening ceremony of the All Native Basketball Tournament with the Kitamaat women sporting “No to Enbridge” t-shirts and one Gitga’at player holding up a “no to tankers” sign.

While Enbridge may not seem to have much support here on the North Coast, it is certainly a polarizing project, perhaps more than any in modern history in BC. It’s the epitome of environment vs. economy, with most environmentally minded people lined up on one side and many business interests across western Canada lined up on the other. And make no mistake about it, you would likely hear a much different story here in BC than you would in Alberta, where oil is king.

Both sides are very firm in their position. On the environmental side of things, the argument is that there is no acceptable risk when it comes to the environment, while on the economy side it is that minimal risk for great reward should be a no brainer. Taken to the extreme – and I’ve heard both of these – it breaks down as follows:

– The only way the environmental groups would support the project is if Enbridge 100 per cent guaranteed there would never be a spill, ever, which is an impossible guarantee.

– If you didn’t do something based on “what if” you wouldn’t leave the house because you could fall and crack your skull or get hit by a drunk driver.

They’re both extreme examples, but they illustrate how passionately people on both sides of the spectrum feel. With people feeling that strongly on opposite ends of the debate, there simply can’t be compromise.