In a two to one decision, the Federal Court of Appeal has overturned the Harper government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, finding that the federal government’s consultation process with First Nations on the BC coast that occurred after the NEB decision and the Joint Review Panel Report was inadequate, saying:
We conclude that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity in Phase IV—a critical part of Canada’s consultation framework—to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue. The inadequacies—more than just a handful and more than mere imperfections—left entire subjects of central interest to the affected First Nations, sometimes subjects affecting their subsistence and well-being, entirely ignored.
The dissenting judge found that the federal government under Stephen Harper had adequately consulted the First Nations. The split decision means that one of the parties, either the federal government, Enbridge Northern Gateway or the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers may seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Updated with later results. Also , Romeo Saganash of the NDP was declared elected after original publication of this story, so his name has been dropped from the list of NDP stars who lost seats.
Skeena Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen retook the riding in landslide in the federal election, Monday October 19. As one of the party’s few clear winners in a disastrous night for the NDP, Cullen immediately had to face questions from local reporters about a possible leadership bid.
As of noon October 20, with 217 out of 219 polls reporting, Cullen had 51.2 per cent, 11,545 votes ahead of Conservative Tyler Nesbitt with 24.7 per cent and Liberal Brad Layoton with 18.7 per cent.
The Liberals did much better nationally, winning a clear majority, with elected in 184 seats. The Conservative government was knocked back to 99 seats to form the official opposition, while the NDP had to settle for 44 seats. Elizabeth May of the Green Party retained her seat and the Bloc Quebecois has 10.
Even though current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said he plans to stay on as leader, the party will certainly review his leadership after the party lost half its seats from the all time high of 95.
The very first question Cullen was asked in a victory teleconference with northwest region reporters from across the huge riding was about his leadership ambitions. Cullen finished second to Mulcair in the NDP leadership contest three years ago.
“The leadership is the farthest thing from my mind tonight,” Cullen replied. “The first preoccupation I had here was in Skeena and how we would do and that feels very good.”
While Cullen said he was disappointed by the NDP results, he added, “I am encouraged that Mr. Harper’s platform was rejected for a much more progressive one.” Stephen Harper resigned as Conservative leader after his party’s loss.
Cullen said, “I want to go see my kids again and have a normal meal, maybe. and get off the road. We put almost 20,000 kilometers on the car. It was a long, long campaign. Tonight, I’m focused on phoning my colleagues, old ones and new ones and seeing how everybody’.s doing.”
Asked about his leadership ambitions a second time later in the teleconference, Cullen said, “I am not considering any of that right now. I want to go back to my family and my home, maybe hang out with my kids a little bit.I just ran a two and half month campaign, I’m not really looking to run another one right away.”
Sounding like a leader
At the same time, however, Cullen was sounding like a potential leader, calling on the NDP to get back to basics.
“I think we attempted to tack to the centre on a number of things, particualy fiscal policy,” he said. “This was obviously an election about change and rejection of the Conservative approach,” adding, “Three weeks ago there was a different narrative and that shows it was a very tumultuous electorate, people were changing their minds,making their minds up late, We just didn’t have that finishing push. maybe the length of the election, contributed to that.”
“We actually suffered from high expectations. To get more than 30 seats, that was [once] considered a real breakthrough. Now going from about a hundred down to the thirties or forties is disappointing.
“We were effective when we were 19. We’ve been able as a caucus to fight for attention on the issues that we’ve considered important. We’re going to have to go back to basics. We have to go back to the real campaign tactics that we’ve used before and can’t rely on the platform of offcial opposition or government to get things done. We’ve had practice at that, we know we’re good at it. We have to rebuild ourselves to be ready in four years time, when we go back to the polls and present alternatives to Canadians, particularly if the Liberals are not able to meet the very high expectations in place right now.”
Asked by one reporter if the result would have been different he had succeeded in his leadership bid, Cullen replied, “That was three years ago [when] I ran. We did better than expected but I was very confident of Tom’s leadership. And again until a few short weeks ago, many, many people were talking about Tom Mulcair as the next prime minister. The difficult thing about politics; it can go up, it can do down. It’s fate sometimes.”
Northern Gateway “finished”
Turning to local issues, Cullen said that it is now likely the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will be stopped. “The efforts of Enbridge to build their pipleine to Kitimat are finally finished, since the new government has said it will reject it.”
As for the proposed Liquified Natural Gas projects, Cullen said, “We have to do LNG properly” adding that the Liberals “are a little harder to pin down on LNG” which was not in their national platform, although local Liberal candidate Brad Layton was in favour of LNG development. “So we’ll find out, we’ll find out in the next number of weeks, where they stand as a government.”
Cullen said that on other issues, there was agreement among most candidates in the campaign over revisiting environmental assessment and an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. One issue that came to the forefront during the campaign, he said, was federal subsidies for northern coastal ferry service.
“We’ve been able to make the concerns and issues we have here in the northwest into national issues, missing and murdered women, Enbridge Northern Gateway and the need to reinvest in our communities,” Cullen said. “They’re all things that I’ve been pushing for, that the Liberal party has now made into their mandate. The real issue isn’t that the issues get raised but whether we hold their feet to the fire or ensuring what they said in the elction is what they actually do in government and that will be the biggest trick with them having that majority.”
Progressive potential for a leader
If the NDP does decide on a leadership review, Cullen is one of the few front bench stars left. Deputy leader Megan Leslie, foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar and incumbents Nycole Turmel, Peter Stoffer, Jack Harris, Andrew Cash, Mathieu Ravignat, and Ève Péclet all lost their seats.
The reasons for the NDP defeat are “going to take a number of days, if not weeks to sort out. There were issues like national pharamcare and our child care plan that didn’t get enough attention,” Cullen said.
“I think there were very negative politics around the niqab Mr. Harper and Mr. Duceppe played that stalled our momentum. I’m very proud of the principled stand the party continued to take, even if it meant costing us votes. We’re not just a party that’s willing to win at all costs at the expensive of our values and our princples. I think some of those distractions and negative politics hurt but it will be in a lot of exit polling and polling in the next few weeks to understand what didn’t go right for us.
“I think the positive thing that we take from this is that the country overwhelmingly decided on progressive platforms, the Liberals presented a program that was broadly progressive. We were not able to outshine them in the broad narrative in the campaign.
“I take some comfort in the fact if anything we were criticized for being too centrist in our fiscal policy. It’s an intereting criticism to make that we were too careful with the books, or too careful with not runing deficits. As for what the party does, that’s a conversation that after any difficult loss, that takes a number of months to happen and that’s natural.
“There is some reflection. I don’t expect to spend a lot of time on that reflective phase. I have a lot of work to do, there’s a lot things we need to do for the northwest and spending too much time navel gazing is not on my agenda for the next months.”
The headline on Thursday’s CBC.ca coverage of the sudden controversy over a boycott in British Columbia of Tim Horton’s over the Enbridge ads sums up everything that’s wrong about media coverage not only of the boycotts, but of northwest energy and environment issues overall.
“Tim Hortons yanks Enbridge ads, sparks Alberta backlash.” The anger at Tim Hortons across northwest British Columbia over those Enbridge ads, the calls for a boycott have been building for more than two weeks but no one in the media noticed despite widespread posts on Facebook and other social media.
As usual, the concerns of the northwest didn’t really become a story until Alberta got involved and the story has become the “Alberta backlash.” Now, there’s a backlash on social media to the Alberta backlash, with northwestern British Columbians tweeting and posting their displeasure, angry at the usual blinkered views of Alberta-centric coverage of energy issues.
Let’s make one thing clear– despite the outraged cries of the usual suspects like Defence Minister Jason Kenney, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who represents Calgary Centre-North and Kyle Harrietha, the Liberal candidate for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake that the boycott was aimed at Alberta’s entire energy industry and the province’s views of a manifest destiny as an energy super power, the doughnut boycott was really aimed specifically at Enbridge, and the company’s arrogance and incompetence.
Of course Jean, like most Albertans, isn’t looking at the bigger picture. The question that Jean should really be asking, is the continuing unquestioning support for Enbridge actually harming the rest of the Alberta energy industry by increasing the resistance in northwestern BC to other energy projects? When are Alberta politicians, whether federal or provincial, ever actually going to show even a Timbit of respect for the issues in northwestern British Columbia?
Look at what Enbridge is doing
There is strong support (with some reservations) for the liquified natural gas projects. There is a level of support for pipelines that would carry refined hydrocarbons to the coast, something that the new premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley is seriously considering. But it is so typical of Alberta, the Alberta media and most of the Canadian media, to believe that the boycott was an attack on the entire energy industry.
Ask any executive of an energy company that wants to do business in northwestern British Columbia and they’ll come up with the a joke that is now so old and so often repeated that it’s become a cliché, “We look at what Enbridge is doing and then do the exact opposite.”
The fact is that Enbridge has been dealing with northwestern British Columbia for more than ten years and they still can’t do anything right. Shell, Chevron, Petronas (and before them Apache) and even TransCanada make more efforts to listen to the people, First Nations and non-Aboriginal residents alike, than Enbridge ever has or ever will (despite their claims in their PR campaigns).
While these energy giants may not agree with what they hear, they are respectful and depending on their corporate culture are making genuine efforts to come up with ways to make their projects work. After a decade of blunders, however, Enbridge still hasn’t shown that much respect for anyone here. Those touchy feely ads that appear on television and at Tim Horton’s are just another example of how not to run a public relations campaign.
There are those who oppose any bitumen sands extraction who signed the online petition, but the core of opposition, as always, comes from northwestern BC and the issue is an ill-conceived pipeline.
Enbridge has been successful in one area of its public relations strategy. They’ve convinced Albertans that Enbridge and the Northern Gateway pipeline is an essential part of not only the Alberta economy but Alberta culture. Any attack on Enbridge becomes an attack on Alberta. Hence the unreasoned anger when after Tim Hortons pulled the ads.
The big blame America lie
The other Big Lie we keep hearing from the Harper Government, is that this all orchestrated by American NGOs and activists. Again this shows Alberta-centric contempt for British Columbia. It’s very easy and convenient to keep believing that everyone in northern British Columbia are dumb and stupid and are being led by the ear by those nasty green Americans who have it in for the efforts to make Canada an energy superpower. That idea, promoted by the more conservative Canadian media has always been animal waste. The battle to protect the environment of northwestern British Columbia while at the same time attracting resource projects that have recognized and obtained social licence to operate has always and will always in BC on a case by case, community by community basis.
A morning shock with your morning coffee and Timbits
Social media across northwestern British Columbia, mostly Facebook, began spreading the news within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys. There were angry posts from individuals who had walked in Tim Hortons and saw the ads.
Why didn’t the media get the story?
So why wasn’t the story covered by the media at least ten days ago?
That’s because in this age of tight budgets, it’s considered easy and economical to try to all of northern BC cover from either Vancouver or Calgary; that means covering from far away both the coast where the pipelines and tankers may or may not operate to the east near the Rockies where the natural gas extraction is on going
If you look at map of northern BC, and the two federal ridings Skeena Bulkley Valley and Prince George–Peace River–Northern Rockies, the population is about 200,000 spread over an area about half the size of Europe. Both ridings in this region are supposedly vital to the future of the Canadian economy, but you wouldn’t know it from most of the media. (The Globe and Mail is an exception, with more ongoing coverage of northern BC than you will find in either The Vancouver Sun or The Province).
As for CBC, there are just eight radio staff, two in Prince Rupert and six in Prince George to cover all the apparently vital issues across half the province. ( Almost all the staff work mostly for the Daybreak North morning show which dominates the regional rates but it looks like with the latest CBC cutbacks that at least one of those positions will be eliminated). CBC TV and Global cover the region from Vancouver.
At least the Vancouver based media make efforts to cover the north from time to time. The Alberta media, however, especially the Calgary Herald, is hopeless, and so biased against British Columbia and so dismissive of the issues here, that the coverage across Alberta is completely unreliable about 90 per cent of the time—it’s no wonder that the majority of Albertans have no understanding of British Columbia culture and issues.
Then there are the punditi, pontificating from their cubicles in Ottawa and Toronto without a clue, without doing the basic journalism of picking up the phone (or writing an e-mail) to actually find out what’s going on.
Andrew Coyne, for example, made these rather silly two tongue-in-cheek tweets Thursday night. While Coyne’s tweets do often exhibit a sense of humour, his excellent coverage of the decline of our democratic parliament has to be compared with his blind, unchecked ideological assumptions about the issues of the northwest, which are simplistic, cubicle bound and far off the mark. The same can be said for Jeffrey Simpson in his occasional writing about this region. Neither the view from the Hill, where you can see as far as the Queensway, nor from Bloor Street, where you can see part of the Don Valley, are vantage points to understand what is going in northern British Columbia.
So let’s look at the specific errors in the media coverage of the Tim Horton’s story.
Both Shawn McCarthy in the Globe and Mail and Kyle Bakyx on CBC.ca seem to accept without question that SumofUs, was the instigator of the petition. Like many issues in northwestern BC, the Lower Mainland or US based activist groups follow the lead of northwestern BC and jump on the bandwagon, not the other way around. Jason Kirby in MacLean’s says the boycott movement began a week ago. Here in Kitimat, it began within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys and was picked up on activist social media groups before the SumofUs petition site.
McCarthy repeats the conventional wisdom: “The Conservatives and oil industry supporters have been waging a public relations war with the environmental groups that oppose expansion of the oil sands and construction of new pipelines.”
CBC.ca quotes Alan Middleton of York University “Enbridge, of course, is not just pipelines and oilsands; they are a whole range of products including heating people’s homes. Tims should have thought about that.” Again a mistake. I lived in Toronto for many years. A company called Consumers Gas supplied natural gas to homes until it was taken over by Enbridge, so Enbridge does heat the homes in Toronto. But what has that got to do with northwestern British Columbia? Why didn’t CBC.ca call the University of Northern British Columbia? Easier to call York (which by the way is where I got both my BA and MA)
McCarthy quotes Rempel as saying, “One has to wonder whether head office talked to their franchise owners in Alberta before making the decision. I imagine those calls are being made this afternoon – certainly there are a lot of people voicing their displeasure.”
The question that should have been asked whether or not Tim Hortons consulted their franchise owners in British Columbia before ordering them to play the ads. People here were “voicing their displeasure” from the moment the first Kitimatian walked into the local Timmys for an early morning coffee and had to stand in line while being told how wonderful Enbridge is.
Of course, if Albertans force Tim Hortons into reinstating the ads, that will only trigger a bigger boycott in British Columbia. As Maclean’s asks, “what were they thinking?”
Jason Kenney, flying in, flying out
As for Jason Kenney, who is quoted by the CBC as tweeting: “I’m proud to represent thousands of constituents who work for Enbridge & other CDN energy companies,” if Kenney aspires to be Prime Minister one day, he had better start thinking about representing more Canadians than just those employed by the energy industry—a mistake that his boss Stephen Harper keeps making.
Jason Kenney did visit Kitimat for a just a few hours in February 2014 for a tour of the Rio Tinto modernization project and an obligatory and brief meeting with the Haisla First Nation council. If Kenney had actually bothered to stick around a few more hours and talk to the community, everyone from the environmentalists to the industrial development advocates, he might not have been so quick on the trigger in the Twitter wars.
Not one of the major media who covered this story, not The Globe and Mail, not CBC.ca, not MacLean’s, no one else, once bothered to actually call or e-mail someone who lives along the Northern Gateway pipeline route in British Columbia, the area where the boycott movement actually began to ask about Enbridge’s track record in this region. The media still doesn’t get it. This morning’s stories are all about Alberta. As usual, my dear, the media doesn’t give a damn about northwestern British Columbia.
That is why the coverage of the Tim Hortons boycott is a double double failure of the Canadian media.
Where else the media is failing northwestern BC
Full disclosure. Since I took early retirement from CBC in 2010 and returned to Kitimat, I have worked as a freelancer for CBC radio and television, Global News, Canadian Press, The National Post, The Globe and Mail and other media.
However, largely due to budget cuts, freelance opportunities, not only for myself, but others across the region have dried up. The media seems to be concentrating more on the major urban areas where there is larger population base and at least more of the ever shrinking advertising dollar. I am now told more often than I was a couple of years ago that “we don’t have the budget.”
Now this isn’t just a freelancer who would like some more work (although it would be nice). If the media these days actually had environmental beats for reporters the boycott of Tim Hortons in northwest BC would have been flagged within a couple of days, not almost two and half weeks and later only when Alberta got hot under its oily collar.
So as well as the Tim Horton’s boycott here are two major ongoing stories from Kitimat that the media haven’t been covering.
100 day municipal strike
-Kitimat’s municipal workers, Unifor 2300, have been on strike since February 28. Three rounds of mediation have failed, the union has refused binding arbitration, the pool, gym and community meeting halls have been closed since February, the municipal parks and byways are now returning to the wilderness. Only essential services are being maintained (but residents still have to pay their property taxes by July 2, taxes that are skyrocketing due to increased assessments for home values based on LNG projects that haven’t started) By the time most people read this the strike will have been on for 100 days. There is no settlement in sight and both sides, despite a mediator ordered blackout, are fighting a press release war on social media. Can you imagine any other place that had a 100 day municipal workers strike with no coverage in the province’s main media outlets, whether newspaper or television? Local CBC radio has covered the strike, as has the local TV station CFTK. (Update: District of Kitimat says in a news release that the mediator has now approved the DoK news releases.)
Of course, in the bigger picture the media concentrates on business reporting. There haven’t been labour reporters for a generation.
So if most Canadians were surprised that there was a boycott of the unofficial national symbol, Tim Hortons, it’s because of that double double media fail and as the media continues to decline, as budgets are cut, as “commodity news” disappears, expect more surprises in the future. Oh by the way Kitimat is vital to the national economy but we can cover it from a cubicle in Toronto.
Final disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker. When I go to Timmy’s I prefer a large steeped tea and an apple fritter.
About 52 million years ago what is now the Bulkley Valley was home to a tiny hedgehog and an ancient ancestor of tapirs, who lived on the shores of a placid lake surrounded by a lush upland forest.
The newly discovered fossils at Driftwood Canyon near Smithers are significant advance in the study of the ancient history of the region. That’s because while the Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park is known for beautifully preserved fossils of leaves, fishes and insects, these are the first mammalian remains found at the site.
The fossil hedgehog and tapir are even more significant because at the time they lived near an upland lake, Earth was going through a period of rapid global warming, now called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
In the past couple of years, climatologists and paleontologists have started to play closer attention to the Thermal Maximum period in hopes of understanding what could happen during climate change today.
Driftwood Canyon first became famous in 1977 with the discovery of oldest known ancestor of salmons, Eosalmo driftwoodensis, which lived in an Eocene lake at Driftwood Canyon.
Today’s study says the ancient hedgehog is a species hitherto unknown to science. It is named Silvacola acares, which means “tiny forest dweller,” since this minute hedgehog likely had a body length of only two to two and half inches or five to six centimetres, about the size of an adult human thumb.
“It is quite tiny and comparable in size to some of today’s shrews,” said Dr. Jaelyn Eberle of the University of Colorado, lead author of the study. She speculated Silvacola may have fed on insects, plants and perhaps seeds.
Did it have quills like contemporary hedgehogs? “We can’t say for sure,” Eberle said. “But there are ancestral hedgehogs living in Europe about the same time that had bristly hair covering them, so it is plausible Silvacola did too.”
The delicate fossil jaw of Silvacola was not freed from the surrounding rock as is typical for fossils. Instead it was studied using an industrial high resolution CT (computed tomography) scanner at Penn State University so it could be studied without risking damage to its tiny teeth.
Hedgehogs are no longer found naturally in North America. Modern hedgehogs and their relatives are restricted to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Hedgehogs have become quite the rage as pets in North America in the past several years. The most common hedgehog pet today is the African pygmy hedgehog, which is up to four times the length of the diminutive Silvacola.
The other mammal, about the size of a medium-sized dog, discovered at the site, is Heptodon, is an ancient relative of modern tapirs, which resemble small rhinos with no horns and a short, mobile, trunk or proboscis.
“Heptodon was about half the size of today’s tapirs, and it lacked the short trunk that occurs on later species and their living cousins. Based upon its teeth, it was probably a leaf-eater, which fits nicely with the rain forest environment indicated by the fossil plants at Driftwood Canyon,” Eberle said.
Most of the fossil-bearing rocks at Driftwood Canyon formed on the bottom of an ancient lake and are well-known for their exceptionally well-preserved leaves, insects, and fishes.
“The discovery in northern British Columbia of an early cousin to tapirs is intriguing because today’s tapirs live in the tropics. Its occurrence, alongside a diversity of fossil plants that indicates a rain forest, supports an idea put forward by others that tapirs and their extinct kin are good indicators of dense forests and high precipitation,” she said.
Forests, lakes, rivers
Fossil plants from the site indicate the area seldom experienced freezing temperatures and probably had a climate similar to that of Portland, Oregon, located roughly 1,126 kilometres or 700 miles to the south.
The current and previous studies have shown the hedgehog and tapid lived on the shores of a lake surrounded by a mixed conifer-broadleaf forest with redwoods, such as Metasequoia and Sequoia, cedars, fir, larch, golden larch, spruce, pine as well as rare ginkgoes. There were also broadleaf deciduous trees such as alder, birch, sassafras, elms, and relatives of the oak family. In the lake were Azolla, a floating fern, which are frequently found as preserved mats in the fossil shale of the cliff at Driftwood, which together with the fine preservation of the insects indicate a quiet water lake.
The remains on the hedgehog were found in the fossil lake bed while the tapir was found in river sediments.
The paleoclimate has been reconstructed suggesting the region had a mean annual temperature of between 10 degrees C and 15 degrees C, with minimal winter freezing and annual precipitation of about 100 centimetres a year. Today, the mean annual temperature for Smithers is 4.2 degrees C with 50.85 centimetres of precipitation a year
“Driftwood Canyon is a window into a lost world – an evolutionary experiment where palms grew beneath spruce trees and the insects included a mixture of Canadian and Australian species. Discovering mammals allows us to paint a more complete picture of this lost world,” said Dr. David Greenwood of Brandon University, a co-author of the study.
“The early Eocene is a time in the geological past that helps us understand how present day Canada came to have the temperate plants and animals it has today. However, it can also help us understand how the world may change as the global climate continues to warm.”
The Driftwood Canyon site is the northernmost of a series of Eocene lake sites spanning about 1000 kilometres that reach south from Smithers to Republic in northern Washington that the scientists call the Okanagan Highlands, with a mixture of temperate and tropical plants and animals and a high diversity of insects and plants.
While Driftwood Canyon is now among sites considered a key indicator of climate change 50 to 53 million years ago, the Harper government has cut almost all the funding for research into paleontology, not just at Driftwood Canyon but across the country, because looking for fossils doesn’t usually fit into the Conservative policy of only funding science that promotes industry.
“Within Canada, the only other fossil localities yielding mammals of similar age are from the Arctic, so these fossils from British Columbia help fill a significant geographic gap,” said Dr. Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature, a co-author of the study.
Other fossils of this age come from Wyoming and Colorado, some 4,345 kilometres or 2,700 miles to the south of the Arctic site of Ellesmere Island. In addition, sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the provincial budget for Driftwood Canyon, despite its significance, is the same as other small parks of that size, with virtually no security to prevent fossils leaving the park, either in the hands of professional looters or if they are picked up and taken home by visitors.
There are consistent reports that looted fossils from Driftwood Canyon are regularly showing up at fossil shows in the United States.
Sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the provincial government has ignored requests to improve security at Driftwood Canyon because it is considered a small (just 21 hectares) low priority park off the main tourist routes, rather than a significant fossil site.
The mammal fossils were discovered in 2012 before the budget cuts and are now in the Royal British Columbia museum in Victoria. The fieldwork was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
The study “Early Eocene mammals from the Driftwood Creek beds, Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, Northern British Columbia ” was published in the July 8, 2014 edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The response to the Joint Review Panel decision on the Northern Gateway, beginning in December and continuing until this Canada Day, both in the public and in the media is sharply divided by the Rocky Mountains.
A lof of Albertans, most of the energy companies and many in the media, especially the Toronto-based business press, keep telling Canadians that the NEB is an independent, quasi-judicial body, that carefully weighs the scientific and other evidence before coming to a conclusion.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands up in Question Period and from his prepared script also claims the JRP and NEB are independent bodies.
Most of those writing about the attitude of the National Energy Board have never attended a single hearing, As for the Joint Review,. those from the major media who did attend were only there for the opening and closing sessions.
In British Columbia, those attended the Northern Gateway Joint Review sessions saw a strange and arcane bureaucratic system with rules of evidence and procedure often tilted toward a proponent in the energy sector.
Those rules of evidence were created for the cosy club atmosphere of the NEB in Calgary where mostly there are friendly hearings attended only by the proponents and energy sector lawyers. Those same rules were infuriating to those in northwest British Columbia trying and failing to persuade the JRP to take seriously many of the concerns of the region. The rules of evidence and procedure were baffling to lawyers practicing in BC; even the highly experienced lawyers from the BC Department of Justice were chewed out by the JRP in Prince George for not following proper procedures.
The JRP seemed to believe that time stopped at the evidentiary deadline, and although it acknowledged that Northern Gateway was a 50 year project, the panel didn’t need to know anything new.
A careful reading of the two volumes of the Joint Review Panel report and decision clearly shows that JRP finding was not, as one columnist called it, a triumph of science over emotion, but a proceeding that was biased from the outset to find in favour of Enbridge. It is clear that even though the Joint Review Panel did impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway, reading those almost 500 pages one sees time and time again that Northern Gateway’s evidence and assurances were accepted at face value, while the panel treated the evidence and testimony from opponents with a much higher level of skepticism.
Moving to Calgary
One of my sources once told me that the “NEB is nothing more than an extension of the Petroleum Club.” In the 1991 budget, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney moved the NEB headquarters from Ottawa to Calgary as a political gift to Alberta.
At that time the move was also seen as practical, Alberta was still complaining no one in Ottawa was listening to it. So if the Conservative government moved the NEB to Calgary, it would be there listening to the oil patch. NEB offices were scattered across the country, consolidating them in Calgary seemed, at the time, to be a way of saving taxpayers’ money and enhancing internal communications.
Seen now, about 25 years later, it’s clear the NEB move from its Ottawa headquarters and regional offices to Calgary was a disaster waiting to happen. Over the past quarter century, despite its claims of independence, the NEB and its staff have become so embedded in the oil patch energy culture of Calgary that (probably subconsciously) the NEB has shown that it is largely incapable of really taking seriously the culture of British Columbia on issues such as the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan projects. The NEB Calgary culture is also colliding,with the concerns and culture of other parts of the country as diluted bitumen pipelines head eastward.
The Conservative omnibus bills that gutted environmental protection and speed up the review process has made things much worse–at least until this week.
Now the Supreme Court has sent a shot across the bow of the full steam ahead National Energy Board, compelling the board to put much more weight on the concerns of First Nations.
The decision upholding the Tsilhqot’in claim to its traditional territory means the NEB and any future joint review panel (whether involving multiple federal agencies or federal agencies and a province) are going to have to take the concerns of First Nations and indeed all Canadians a lot more seriously—and the future of the planet as well, as described in the first part of this analysis. Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin wrote that on First Nations` traditional territory:
that it is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.
“Future generations” is the key phrase.
Future generations could undermine that whole world view of the Joint Review Panel, since the panel so casually dismissed the fears of a major disaster on the coast, saying it was “unlikely” and could be “mitigated.”
The JRP basically had a so-what attitude to British Columbia, arguing that since parts of the British Columbia environment had already been degraded any future environmental problems would be minimal and could be “mitigated.”
While in the introduction to its definition of the Public Interest, the JRP says
If approved and built, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project could operate for 50 years or more. Sustainable development was an important factor in our environmental assessment and our consideration of the public interest. The project would have to meet today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations.
Sounds like that might match the Chief Justice. But, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. And just a few paragraphs later, the JRP says:
Our assessment of the project’s effects on residents and communities Considering Northern Gateway’s project design, its commitments, and our conditions, we concluded that the project’s potential effects on people’s land, water, and resource use could be mitigated. We were not persuaded that construction and routine operations of the project would have a negative effect on the social fabric of communities in the project area. We also were not persuaded that the project would adversely affect the health and well being of people and communities along the route or in coastal areas. We found that the net overall economic effects of the project would be positive and would provide potential benefits and opportunities to those individuals and businesses that choose to participate in the project.
The JRP’s attitude toward a major disaster was “trust Enbridge.”
We found that some level of risk is inherent in the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and that no party could guarantee that a large spill would not occur. We found that a large spill, due to a malfunction or accident, from the pipeline facilities, terminal, or tankers, is not likely.
We found that Northern Gateway has taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems, such as its commitments to address human error, equipment failures, and its corporate safety culture. These commitments and all others made by the company
Oh well, the ecosystem will recover eventually—a conclusion that could be reached only by ignoring the evidence from Prince William Sound, site of the Exxon Valdez spill.
We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there will be significant adverse environmental effects, and that functioning ecosystems recover through mitigation and natural processes.
We found that a large oil spill would not cause permanent, widespread damage to the environment. The extent of the significant adverse effects would depend on the circumstances associated with the spill. Scientific research from past spill events indicates that the environment recovers to a state that supports functioning ecosystems similar to those existing before the spill. We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups.
We found that, in rare circumstances, a localized population or species could potentially be permanently affected by an oil spill. Scientific research from a past spill event indicates that this will not impact the recovery of functioning ecosystems.
In other words, some communities, probably aboriginal communities, would have be sacrificed in the public interest and the economics of Alberta while the economy of that part of British Columbia would be destroyed.
Will the JRP have to start over?
The environmental law community and First Nations leaders are already taking a look at another paragraph in the Supreme Court judgement. Paragraph 92 in lawyer speak.
One of the many reports comes from West Coast Environmental Law which noted in an e-mail
[T]he Tsilhqot’in decision, Canada’s highest court brings home the implications of this for Enbridge and other project proponents:
Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward.
For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.
And what about the overhaul of environmental legislation in 2012 to smooth the way for pipeline and other industrial development?
The court notes: “Similarly, if legislation was validly enacted before title was established, such legislation may be rendered inapplicable going forward to the extent that it unjustifiably infringes Aboriginal title.”
In other words, the Supreme Court decision resets everything.
It could nullify the recent decision by the Prime Minister to permit the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Or it could mean, especially given the number of court challenges just to the JRP, that, in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision the panel will be ordered by a court to go back to the drawing board and reconsider its findings.
Then there are the pending challenges to the Harper decision allowing the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Sources told Northwest Coast Energy News that the first of a number of court challenges were to be filed last week. It is likely that after the holiday weekend, lawyers will be rewriting their filings and their briefs in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision and presenting the Federal Court with those challenges some time in July.
The justices of the Supreme Court did allow a public interest exemption on the use of First Nations land for a larger purpose, but there must now be genuine consultation and the public interest will likely have be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it can’t just be the whim of a prime minister with a tame, unquestioning caucus who decides what is in the public interest.
Who consults whom?
In the decision, Chief Justice McLaughlin wrote:
Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group
The right to control the land conferred by Aboriginal title means that governments and others seeking to use the land must obtain the consent of the Aboriginal title holders. If the Aboriginal group does not consent to the use, the government’s only recourse is to establish that the proposed incursion on the land is justified under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Compare that again with what the JRP said. As with the environmental impact it begins by saying:
The Panel finds that the magnitude, extent, and potential impacts of this project required an extensive program of public consultation. The Panel considers thorough and effective consultation to be a process that is inclusive of, and responsive to, all potentially-affected groups and individuals.
Then the JRP says:
The Panel notes that, among potentially-affected parties, there were differing perspectives on what constitutes a thorough and effective process of consultation. There were also different views among some parties about how consultation should occur, and their roles and responsibilities during consultation.
The Panel believes that it is critical for all parties to recognize and understand their respective roles and responsibilities for achieving effective dialogue during consultation. The Panel noted the principles of thorough and effective consultation at the beginning of this chapter. The Panel finds that these principles require that a process must provide timely, appropriate, and effective opportunities for all potentially-affected parties to learn about a project, provide their comments and concerns, and to discuss how these can be addressed by the applicant.
So what does it mean?
The JRP starts off by giving Northern Gateway a slap on the wrist:
The applicant [Enbridge] must be genuinely responsive. Affected parties have an ongoing and mutual responsibility to respond to opportunities for consultation, to communicate concerns they may have, and to discuss how these can be addressed.
But then it goes on in the same paragraph:
Consultation requires trust, mutual respect, and relationship-building. All parties have an obligation to seek a level of cultural fluency, in order to better understand the values, customs, needs, and preferences of the other parties involved in the consultation process. All parties may be required to adjust their expectations in response to the information, concerns, and interests raised and considered through the process. The Panel observed that this approach did not always occur in this proceeding.
Get the phrase “all parties.” It is clear here that the JRP is taking on the First Nations and other opponents for not seeing Northern Gateway’s point of view, since it accepts, as seen below, Northern Gateway’s contention that it is doing a good job with consultation,
And the word “trust.” Again the Alberta-bound JRP (the panel had no members from British Columbia, two from Alberta, one from Ontario) are saying “trust Enbridge.”
Unfortunately after a decade of operating in the northwest, and despite its spin, Enbridge has failed time and time again to establish trust with First Nations and it has equally failed to establish trust with a significant number non-aboriginal residents of the northwest.
The companies developing LNG projects have, for the most part, established a level of trust.
The joke up here is now so old it’s a cliche (but still unknown to the eastern media) where an LNG executive says, “We look at what Enbridge did and do the exact opposite.”
The Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s view that consultation is a process which should ensure that all parties are better informed through consultation, and that it involves being prepared to amend proposals in light of information received. In this regard, the Panel notes that Northern Gateway made numerous changes to the design and operation of the project in response to input provided by the public, landowners, governments, and stakeholders
In fact, Northern Gateway is still fumbling the ball.
It is true that Northern Gateway did change its plans and put another $500 million into the plans for the project–after a lot of public pressure and growing controversy during the JRP hearings over its plans.
Equally telling was Northern Gateway’s dismissal in its final arguments (arguments accepted by the JRP) that there was no earthquake hazard in the region, despite two major earthquakes at Haida Gwaii and southern Alaska just months earlier, both of which shook Kitimat.
In the final oral arguments, Northern Gateway’s lawyer Richard Neufeld summarily dismissed the fears of the Haida and Heiltskuk First Nations about destruction of the herring spawning beds because, he said, first, the chances of a tanker disaster were unlikely and second, even if there was a tanker disaster it was even more unlikely that it would occur during the spawning season. (Not that the spawning season matters, herring beds in San Francisco Bay are still damaged years after a spill there).
Now with the Tsilhqot’in decision, Enbridge can no longer summarily dismiss those fears. The companies who have proposed liquefied natural gas projects are meeting with anyone, including avowed opponents, and opening dialogues, even if both sides continue to disagree. Despite its spin, accepted by the political pundits and eastern business media, those who live in the northwest know Northern Gateway’s consultations and engagement, so far, have mostly been with friendly groups and friendly audiences.
The Supreme Court decision is going to change that attitude in the coming weeks. If Enbridge wants Northern Gateway to go ahead, the company is going to have to genuinely engage with First Nations. Given all the damage created by Enbridge over the past decade, that engagement is unlikely to change anything.
The Supreme Court decision is going to have one more consequence.
Eventually, in a few years, the decision will negate that stupid attitude from the conservative media and some in the business community that the people of northwestern British Columbia are against all development. That was never true but it’s a convenient excuse for those columnists and conservatives not to question their own assumptions.
If the reporters and columnists had bothered to come up here, if the press-release dispatching business leaders had bothered to leave their executive suites, they’d know what northwestern BC wants is responsible and sustainable development, not quick in and out profits.
The Supreme Court decision means that any future industrial development in the northwest will be much different from anything seen in the past because First Nations must be involved from the beginning.
Given its sorry track record, it is unlikely that Enbridge will be part of that development. but others will profit, yes profit, from that failure.
In the coming years it is also likely that there will be a new approach to development from the National Energy Board after they begin to see their narrow oil-patch friendly approach and rulings struck down by the courts quoting the Tsilhqot’in decision.
Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative political minister for British Columbia, James Moore, have brushed off Kitimat’s concerns about the Northern Gateway Pipeline after a majority of residents voted to oppose the project.
Even though Northern Gateway is a high priority for the Harper government, the Prime Minister did not bother to sign the letter himself. Instead it was Salpie Stepanian , an assistant to the prime minister who responded to the District for “taking the time to write.”
James Moore responded with a much shorter letter but apparently did sign the letter himself (if it wasn’t a sign-o-robot). He too thanked the District for writing and asked to be kept informed. Both letters were released at Monday’s District of Kitimat Council meeting.
Notes: On Monday District of Kitimat Council approved a $2500 support grant to the Kitimat EconomicDevelopment Association that says it is “active in pursuing development that will return Kitimat to a robust, self-sufficient community.” The grant was conditional in that it cannot be used for “initiatives Council does not support”–in other words Enbridge.
As expected, the federal government has approved the Northern Gateway project. In a news release this afternoon, Natural Resources Canada said that the “Government of Canada” had accepted the 209 conditions set by the Joint Review Panel for the Northern Gateway.
In recent years, Stephen Harper’s government has usually issued news releases headlined “the Harper government.” The headline on the NRC website also emphasizes the 209 JRP conditions and not the approval of the overall project, which is mentioned formally in the last line instructing the National Energy Board to issue the ” Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity.”
Government of Canada Accepts Recommendation to Impose 209 Conditions on Northern Gateway Proposal
Proponent must demonstrate how conditions will be met, undertake further consultations with Aboriginal communities as part of next steps in regulatory process
Natural Resources Canada
The Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, today issued the following statement outlining the Government of Canada’s decision after the Joint Review Panel’s independent review of the Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal to construct and operate two parallel pipelines to transport crude oil between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia, and a marine terminal at the port of Kitimat. The proposal was submitted by Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership to the National Energy Board (NEB) for an environmental assessment and regulatory examination in 2010. This constituted the beginning of the regulatory process.
The Joint Review Panel for the Northern Gateway Project was an independent body established by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board to review the project. The Panel’s rigorous science-based review included feedback from over 1,450 participants in 21 different communities, reviewing over 175,000 pages of evidence and receiving 9,000 letters of comment. The NEB is responsible for regulating some 73,000 kilometres of pipelines transporting crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products across Canada.
“In December 2013, the Joint Review Panel found that construction and operation of the Northern Gateway Pipelines project is in the public interest, subject to 209 conditions being met by the proponent. After carefully reviewing the report, the Government accepts the independent Panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway Pipelines’ proposal.
“Today constitutes another step in the process. Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the NEB, how it will meet the 209 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments. In addition, consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits. The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.”
The National Energy Board will now issue Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity.
At least three rallies are planned for Kitimat on Tuesday, June 17, as BC Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to arrive to announce a new agreement with the Haisla Nation and, a few hours later, the Harper government will announce its decision on approving the Northern Gateway project.
The Harper government is expected to approve the highly controversial pipeline, terminal and tanker project and once that happens, it is likely that Kitimat will be the focus of protests against (and perhaps for) Northern Gateway.
District Council was told Monday, June 16, that the RCMP and District staff have had meetings to come up with contingency plans if large numbers of protesters come to Kitimat in the future.
Answering a question from Councillor Phil Germuth, Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison, Kitimat detachment commander told Council that RCMP had met with Kitimat deputy chief administrative officer Warren Waycheshen to discuss the groups they were aware of that might be protesting in Kitimat.
“It’s actually hard to plan for some of them, we don’t know how large they’re going to be, “Harrison told Councl, “There are all sorts of different factors that go into coming up with an operational plan for any kind of a demonstration
“We’ve talked about where we may be able to hold demonstrations, how we are going to do accommodate the people, what are we going to do for sanitation,
what we are going to do for garbage collection. all that kind of stuff,” the staff sergeant said.
“Until we get more information regarding what kind of demonstration it’s going to be, it’s hard to plan for. We do encourage any leaders of any organization that’s going to be demonstrating to come and chat with us.
:Demonstrations are fully legal in Canada. We have no problems with those. Our concern is when it comes to the safety of the public and so, therefore, if there isanything we can do to help to mitigate any kind of problems that might arise if the safety of the public, we’d like to know that before hand.”
Waycheshen said it was up to Council to set policy but noted that the staff has been working on long term plans, saying. ‘We do a lot of pre-planning and then just wait to see if it comes or not.”
Waycheshen said that while the RCMP and District staff have studied the more obvious locations, “as the RCMP point out, there are certain times when people won’t congregate where you want them to, so we have to work around their locations.’
“We’ve looked at the need for water, porta-potties, meals and stuff,” Waycheshen said. “It’s always tough until you know the numbers When they come in, are they going to be self sufficient or not?
“We’ve talked to our suppliers to make them aware that this could be happening at short notice, so they’re aware of it,
“We’ve done as much as we can And almost like the emergency plan, we’ve talked to the emergency planning group for the District. There might be a point where we activate the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] plan, not to treat it as an emergency but to give you a lot more flexibility to react in a quick way.”
“Some of the suppliers say we should be able to get you this and that, but we will have to know at the time.
“It’s really contingent on when they’re coming in. Our purchasing department has been really good about contacting people, this is the potential of what we could
It all starts on Tuesday when Premier Clark is scheduled to arrive at the old hospital site to announce the agreement with the Haisla.
Douglas Channel Watch says it plans to rally at the “Downtown Kitimat” sign across the street from the hospital site at 10:45. Kitimat’s teachers who will officially be on strike on Tuesday, plan their own rally at Centennial Park at the same time.
The Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Time, after the market close in the east, 1 p.m, Pacific Time.
Shortly after the government announcement, Douglas Channel Watch will then hold a second rally in Centennial Park.
It comes down to the idea that Harper will approve Gateway “in the national interest,” count on a vote split between the NDP and Liberals in British Columbia to avoid any consequences to the Conservative majority and then leave it up to Enbridge to actually get the job of building the pipeline and terminal project done.
Mason quotes “ a senior member of Mr. Harper’s government,” and while Mason doesn’t say what part of Canada the source is from, (unlikely in my view the source is from BC) what the member told Mason reveals that the Harper government is still mired in it the Matrix-world that has always governed its policy on Northern Gateway.
The first step, apparently coming in the next few days, is that the Harper government “rigorous” new tanker protocols for traffic along the west coast.
Even if the protocols are new, just who is going to enforce those policies?
Even if Gateway and the Kinder Morgan expansion went ahead, he argued, B.C. would still only see about 60 per cent of the annual oil tanker traffic the neighbouring state of Washington deals with. And yet Washington has an exceptionally clean record when it comes to the safe transport of oil in and out of its harbours – this, he noted, while operating under marine safety regulations that are not as rigorous as the ones Ottawa intends to put in place for the shipment of oil along the West Coast.
There are a lot big problems with that statement.
First, there’s an organization that the Mason’s source may have heard of known as the United States Coast Guard. The United States rigorously enforces its “weak” regulations, while Canada’s Coast Guard is plagued by staff shortages and budget cuts.
Second, the State of Washington also rigorously enforces its environmental regulations, not only on the coast but across the state. I have been told by retired British Columbia forestry and environmental officials (not to mention Fisheries and Oceans) that there are often more state environmental watch dogs in most Washington State counties than in all of northern British Columbia where the Northern Gateway is supposed to be going.
The September 2013, report by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on the export of Canadian bitumen sands through the US shows that the Washington Department of Ecology is working on strengthening regulations for both pipelines and (where it’s in state jurisdiction) tanker traffic. The same report says the state of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is updating its plans and possible regulations in anticipation that bitumen filled tanker traffic from Kitimat would come close to the coast en route to Asia.
Third, the coast of northern British Columbia is more rugged and stormy than the waters off Washington.
The one factor that the urban media seems to ignore, is the big question.
Who pays to enforce the 209 conditions that the Joint Review Panel imposed on the Northern Gateway project?
If the Harper government announces new tanker regulations in the coming days, who pays to enforce those regulations?
There were no provisions in the February budget for enforcing the 209 conditions. Rather there were continuing budget cuts to the very departments that the JRP ruled must be involved in the studying, planning, implementation and enforcement of the 209 conditions, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada.
So while Mason says “The federal government will play its part in meeting the five conditions laid out by the B.C. government for support of the project,” the response must be “Show me the money!”
During the recent plebiscite campaign, Northern Gateway finally revealed its plans for the “super tugs” that will escort tankers along the coast and up Douglas Channel. Owen McHugh, a Northern Gateway emergency manager said, “Adding these four or five tugs to the north coast provides a rescue capability that doesn’t exist in this format. So for any large commercial vessel that is traveling on our coast, this capacity to protect the waters of the north coast.” Those tugs and Northern Gateway’s plans to station teams at small bases along the coast means that the company is, in effect, creating a parallel, private, coast guard on the BC Coast.
What about the Coast Guard itself? The Harper government has been gutting Coast Guard resources along the coast even before it had its majority. It closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. There is more dependence on the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers, who have to raise money locally for modern rescue boats which cost up to $750,000. The money that government was “generously” giving to RCMSAR had to be split up to 70 stations in 42 communities along the coast as well as its administrative and training staff.
Does anyone notice what is missing from that list? What’s missing are better Coast Guard vessels just to police all the expected tanker traffic on the west coast (whether LNG or bitumen) and no mention of dedicated spill response vessels, which under the “polluter pay” policy will likely be left to private contractors (and hope that the ships are available at the time of a spill)
How will we know?
Then there is the question of how will people even know if the 209 conditions are being enforced; whether or not the reports demanded by the Joint Review Panel are going be sitting on the National Energy Board server and ignored.
There is every indication, given the government’s obsession with secrecy that until there is a disaster the Canadian public will never know what’s going on. Harper’s muzzling doesn’t just cover government scientists, it covers the lowest level of bureaucrats, as District of Kitimat Council found out when low level DFO bureaucrats refused to appear publicly before council to discuss the risk to the Kitimat River.
So the scenario is, according to Mason’s source
“I think once this decision is made, Enbridge could have shovels in the ground the next day,” the member said. “They are ready to go. This means the First Nations could start realizing profits from this right away, as opposed to the promised profits from LNG, which may never materialize. I think they need to think about that.”
While the LNG market is volatile, the “member” forgets that most of the First Nations of British Columbia have opposed the Northern Gateway since Enbridge first floated the idea in 2001. The current LNG rush didn’t start until after Japan shut down its nuclear power plants after the March 2011 earthquake, The first major anti-Enbridge rally, “The Solidarity Gathering of Nations” was held at Kitamaat Village in May 2010.
Writing off BC
It appears that Conservatives, in their election strategy have already written off Gateway opponents:
Still, there is a raw political calculus that needs to be taken into account. Polls measuring support for the pr.oject in B.C. vary, but generally have shown that anywhere from 55 to 60 per cent of the province opposes Gateway and 40 to 45 per cent support it. Isn’t that enough to scare off a government that needs critical votes in B.C. to win another majority?
“Let’s say 60 per cent are against it,” he said. “And that vote splits between the Liberals and the NDP come the next election. Who are the 40 per cent going to vote for?”
Mason also speculates that Harper will approve Gateway to stick it to Barack Obama and the delays on Keystone XL. As he points out that’s a political, not an economic decision.
There are civil disobedience classes being held across northwestern BC this month. Access to Information requests by the Vancouver Observer revealed increased RCMP surveillance of the anti-Gateway movement. There has always been talk of a “war in the woods” if the pipeline project is forced on an unwilling population.
So it comes down to a question that Mason and the Conservatives are avoiding. Mason’s source says Northern Gateway is crucial to the national interest:
“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right, not what’s politically expedient,” he said. “You have to ask: What’s in the best interests of all Canadians?”
So given all that will the Harper government leave Enbridge to tough it out on its own?
But will the Harper government, with its bean counting obsession on balancing the budget be willing to pay for all that is needed?
There’s lots of marine clay along the pipeline route, laid down by ancient oceans. That brings to mind just one word. Quagmire, not just the wet, sticky BC mud but a political quagmire.
With about three and half weeks to go, the campaigning on the for and against sides for the April 12 Kitimat plebiscite on the Joint Review Panel report on the Northern Gateway has been relatively low key up until now.
That changes with the news that Northern Gateway will hold two campaign Open Houses. Sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that the first Open House, hosted by Northern Gateway President John Carruthers, will take place at the Rod and Gun on Tuesday, April 1. The second Open House will be hosted by Janet Holder, Enbridge’s Executive Vice President of Western Access, on Tuesday, April 8, also at the Rod and Gun.
Until now, Enbridge Northern Gateway has been using its deep pockets with a newspaper ad campaign emphasizing Kitimat residents and the promise of jobs, as well as a new website Yes To/For Kitimat. Northern Gateway has also started a telephone campaign, asking residents if they plan to vote “yes” in the plebiscite.
The main opposition, Douglas Channel Watch, is concentrating on what political analysts call the “ground game,” by knocking on doors. Douglas Channel Watch, although they claim to be amateurs facing a giant corporation, are following a classic political strategy. DCW is certainly confident of the “no” vote and their campaign so far, is aimed at fence sitters and those who are in favour of the pipeline but are uncertain about the 209 conditions.
The third player, so far, is Smithers based Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research, which distributed a glossy brochure, comparing the BC provincial government’s final arguments on the project with the Joint Review Panel’s conclusions.
The opposition campaign is concentrating on the perceived lack of balance in the Joint Review Panel, while, again, so far, Enbridge Northern Gateway is avoiding the JRP, perhaps because the company itself is not all that certain about what all 209 conditions actually mean.
That means the District of Kitimat Council, with some members tilting toward favouring the Northern Gateway (although the council members generally deny public opposition), could have blundered with the ambiguous question centered around the JRP
Do you support the final report recommendations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and National Energy Board, that the Enbridge Northern Gateway project be approved, subject to 209 conditions set out in Volume 2 of the JRP’s final report?”
Overall, whether one opposes or supports the Northern Gateway project, in the end, the Joint Review hearings did not go over well in northwestern British Columbia. By and large the JRP accepted most of the Northern Gateway evidence at face value while largely playing down the concerns of many northwestern BC residents—even supporters. Most important was the JRP’s conclusion that effects of any oil spill, either from a pipeline breach or a tanker accident would be
In the unlikely event of a large oil spill, we found that there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups. We found that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread.
Douglas Channel Watch is trying to capitalize on these doubts. At District Council on Monday March 17, Murray Minchin said:
“What we found out that there are five key reasons why even supporters of Northern Gateway were going to vote no on the plebiscite and people who were sitting on the fence were considering voting no on the plebiscite.
“The plebiscite is on the Joint Review final report and conditions which allow temporary foreign workers to work on the pipeline in Canada, describes Northern Gateway as a raw diluted bitumen export pipeline; does not mandate upgrading or any other value adding job program and will allow 1,100 foot long super tankers to operate on BC’s pristine north coast…The final reason was that the Joint Review panel found that the Exxon Valdez and Kalmazoo spills were localized events with temporary affects which would be justified in the circumstances if they happened in BC.”
“So by voting no we will be sending a message to Ottawa telling them we don’t want temporary foreign workers taking jobs from Canadians. We don’t want thousands of jobs being exported overseas. We don’t want up to 364 dilbit super tankers a year, and the 364 supertankers is based on the actual amount of product that will be put through the pipeline since they’re only applying for 525,000 barrels a day but its actually designed for 850,000 barrels a day, so that’s how we come up with the figure of one super tanker a day, coming to Kitimat and one leaving.
“If you don’t think major diluted bitumen spills in Kitimat’s salmon rivers or on BC’s pristine coast can be justified in any circumstances. So if you vote no on the plebiscite, while you may support the idea, this is an opportunity to send a message back to Ottawa that they really need to rethink their priories.”
Enbridge’s only public appearance early in the campaign was when Donny van Dyke, Northern Gateway’s Manager of Coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations, outlined to council on March 10, the contributions that Northern Gateway has given to the community and to local training programs.
Van Dyk said the Northern Gateway supported training programs that will also be used by other new industrial and commercial projects. He said training with the company’s partners create life skills, noting that one focus of the training is to help people who may have barriers to education, life skills and gainful employment.
Van Dyke says the company plans Northern Gateway Youth Achievement Awards for outstanding students going beyond academics. As part of the awards, 50 winners received iPads.
Van Dyk said that Northern Gateway has contributed $20,000 to community groups within Kitimat, including $7,500 this year . They contributions include: $100,000 for marine skills training, $145,000 for Environmental Field Assessment training, $110,000 went to the Pipe Trades Foundation for training and financial support and $5000 for trades training for local high school students. The company has contributed $225,000 to Project Shop Class, a construction trades program, with $100,000 earmarked for the high schools in Kitimat.
Northern Gateway’s ads both in local newspapers and on a new website yesto kitimat.ca are emphasizing long term jobs.
The latest ad says:
“The pipeline will bring jobs. But the pipeline is just the start. We’ll start to see growth in the economy and the population. We’ll see more opportunities for our kid, job training, extracurricular activities, music programs, all kinds of good stuff.”
Another of the ads, featuring Trish Parsons, Chamber of Commerce manager says:
“For me, the best thing about living in Kitimat is that you can go hiking or fishing on your way home form work. It’s a special place to live. But without jobs and stability. I worry about my kids and grandkids won’t be able to live here with me, And that’s why I want more than anything.”
The Northern Gateway ads have created vigorous debates on social media, with many of the comments opposed to the project, including resentment at the money Enbridge is spending on the ads and the idea that Northern Gateway has “infiltrated” a community event.
At the council meeting, Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch pointed out that the according to the BC elections act third party advertising is capped at $3167.93 per electoral district, which given the fact that Black Press charges $8,250 for a full page colour ad in its newspapers, that if the plebiscite was a provincial election, Northern Gateway would have already far exceeded those limits.
In a free society, Enbridge Northern Gateway, as the proponent of the project, has the right to campaign on behalf of the project. It is not the same as a third party intervention in a general election.
The overall problem is the short-sighted, half-hearted approach that the District of Kitimat Council has taken with the plebiscite, which now goes beyond the confusing plebiscite question. The rules as released by District only mention signage. There was apparently no anticipation that campaign spending could be an issue, even though one side was a well-financed large corporation and therefore no research if campaign spending limits are permitted in a municipal non-binding plebiscite.
The confusing plebiscite question and now the issue of campaign spending can only raise doubts about whether or not the community accepts the results of the vote, especially if the outcome is close.
(With more controversial energy projects coming up, and the possibility of more referenda or plebiscites, the province should set clear and transparent rules for future votes.)
Plebiscite Reality Check
The Northern Gateway ads promise jobs, stability and say “we need to know everything’s going to be good for a long time, not just a year or two.”
Apart from the fact that Northern Gateway confidently believes it can foretell the future, that the pipeline will bring sustained growth in the Kitimat economy, here is what that Joint Review Panel said in its official report on the number of permanent jobs.
Northern Gateway said that the number of permanent jobs during operations would total 268.
This includes permanent workforce requirements in Edmonton, Fox Creek, Whitecourt, Grande Prairie, Tumbler Ridge, Prince George, Burns Lake, and Kitimat. It said that this also includes people expected to be employed in Kitimat to supply services associated with operations of the Kitimat Terminal, including tug operators, pilots, emergency response staff, and various other service providers.
The company said that annual spending on project operations is expected to total about $192 million. The company said that this includes $94.8 million in British Columbia, $77.6 million in Alberta, and $19.5 million in federal corporate income taxes. The company said that jobs related to operations are expected to provide opportunities for residents and offer long-term sustainable employment
benefit to the provinces.
This means that Northern Gateway will provide less than 300 permanent jobs spread across the entire pipeline route, and many of them will probably be at Enbridge headquarters in Edmonton. The number of permanent jobs at Kitimat have been estimated from as low as 25 to as high as 60. That is hardly a big boost to the Kitimat economy.
Douglas Channel Watch
Douglas Channel Watch has kept its message clear and simple.
Both in its press release and in Murray Minchin’s statement to council, he is calling on Kitimat to “send a message to Ottawa.” Given the record of the Harper government on issues such as the BC wide objections to the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, it is likely that even if there is an overwhelming “no” vote in Kitimat, Harper, his cabinet and officials will ignore the plebiscite result. It would take more pressure than from the residents of Kitimat for Harper to pay attention. Of course, the Northern Gateway may yet garner worldwide attention like the Keystone XL has. But the big problem, as the Ottawa pundits have pointed out, if you get Harper’s attention, the result is often vindictive rather than seeing someone else’s point of view. Up to now, except for an occasional obligatory visit to the Haisla Nation, for the Conservatives, Kitimat is out of sight and out of mind.
The other small mistake by Douglas Channel Watch came a couple of weeks ago when Murray Minchin, when calling for a public forum prior to the vote, said that Kitimat didn’t need a speaker like former Dawson Creek mayor Mike Bernier (now a Liberal MLA) who Minchin said took the focus off the issue of the pipeline. However, it was Bernier, who, two years ago, warned Kitimat about the problems of work camps and a potential housing crisis. It appears that Bernier’s warning fell on deaf ears, given the current housing crisis in Kitimat.
Earlier this story said “Douglas Channel Watch is also hosting an event with author Arno Kopecky at Riverlodge on Saturday March 29th at 7 pm for a talk on his book Oil Man and the Sea, Navigating the Northern Gateway.” Douglas Channel Watch says it is not hosting the event, but members of the group were spreading the word about Kopecky’s appearance.