Opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline don't have the market cornered on environmental concerns, according to Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris.
"It doesn't matter what part of the political spectrum your from or what part of society you're from, no one has an exclusive," he said. "We're all concerned about the environment, all as much as the others. We don't want to leave a damaged environment to our children and our grandchildren."
Sonja Ostertag, a spokeswoman for Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, said Harris is off base. She said because her anti-pipeline group is based locally in Prince George, it has the environmental high ground.
"The opponents to this project are the people who live on the proposed pipeline route," she said. "I don't believe that someone who lives in Alberta or Toronto or China or anywhere else in the world be as considered as people whose direct livelihood is dependent on a healthy environment."
There has been vocal opposition to the pipeline from environmental, community and First Nations groups as the project has been going through its environmental assessment by the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel. Calgary-based Enbridge is hoping to build a pipeline to ship Alberta bitumen to Kitimat for sale in Asian markets.
Harris isn't surprised the pipeline's opponents are able to get their word out better than those in favour for the $6 billion project. He said when it comes to any political issue, the opponents often make more noise than the supporters.
"If I'm, as a Conservative, against something, chances are you'll find me talking very loudly about it, probably louder than if I'm for something," he said. "It's just human nature, I think."
Harris said he believes many people in his riding are waiting to see the environmental assessment report before making up their minds on the contentious issue. Ostertag contends most British Columbians are against the plan.
Both Harris and Ostertag have a point, depending on how you crunch recent public polling data. A survey by Angus Reid released earlier this month said pipeline opponents outnumber supports in B.C. by a fice-to-one margin. However the same poll said more than half of those surveyed had yet to make up their mind and could change their opinion if more evidence is presented.
In addition to the battle for public opinion, B.C and Alberta are also feuding over how the the revenue from the proposed pipeline should be divvied up. Harris said he doesn't believe it's the federal government's job to wade into the inter-provincial dispute -- unless it is invited.
"I'm sure we'd much prefer they'd work things out themselves and I'm sure they can," Harris said. "I don't think the federal government should step in there in any way, unless they're specifically asked by both parties to act as an arbitrator."
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