In late June, the federal government announced Enbridge’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline can proceed if it meets the National Energy Board’s 209 conditions. That’s indicative of a multiplicity of concerns around a project that includes a 1,200-kilometre pipeline that would traverse some of the most wild and spectacular terrain in Canada, and the shipping of diluted bitumen through narrow channels on the west coast and wide oceans to faraway customers.
First Nations, tree huggers and aging hippies are not the only ones intent on protecting the virginal reputation of “Beautiful British Columbia.” Just as oil is a natural resource, so are pure ocean beaches, spirit bears, resident orcas and the world’s tallest Douglas fir.
An irony is that B.C. has become a Mecca for Albertans who’ve made big bucks via the oilpatch. From the Okanagan to the Comox Valley, loaded Albertans buy second homes or retire in B.C. A property manager told me recently about 60 per cent of select Vancouver Island properties are purchased by Albertans.
I was in Alberta when the federal government gave its tepid Northern Gateway approval. It didn’t take long for Albertans to tout the benefits. It was like winning the lottery. Across the border, First Nations, environmentalists and even Unifor began oiling their protest machines. At Northern Gateway’s terminus in Kitimat, B.C., in an April vote, 1,793 residents of the 9,000-person town said no to the pipeline versus 1,278 supporters. As for the politicians, they’re either playing to their voting base or sidestepping the issue.
As B.C. Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver pointed out, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program in 1980, Albertans were outraged. They argued that it was inappropriate for the federal government to interfere with their energy policy because it was within provincial jurisdiction.
My, how times have changed.