Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

MPs reinforce opposing positions on pipeline

The federal government's final decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline is still weeks away, but the rhetoric between two regional MPs on opposite sides of the issue is ramping up.

The federal government's final decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline is still weeks away, but the rhetoric between two regional MPs on opposite sides of the issue is ramping up.

Cariboo-Prince George Conservative MP Dick Harris believes the heavy oil pipeline from northern Alberta to Kitimat can be built and maintained safely and the economic opportunities make it a project Canadians shouldn't pass up.

"[Prime Minister Stephen] Harper and our government are solidly supportive of the economic opportunity that this project offers for sure," Harris said in a phone interview. "But we're not going to be foolish about it and cut corners on the safety factors that have to go into making this a success."

Across the political aisle, Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen said the government is paving the way for the controversial pipeline despite persistent safety concerns.

"Whatever [project proponent] Enbridge says, the government is going to say that's satisfying and the people who end up taking the real risks are the people who live along the coast," he said in a conference call with reporters.

In December a federal Joint Review Panel recommended the dual oil and condensate pipelines from northern Alberta to Kitimat be allowed to proceed as long as 209 conditions are met. Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq and the rest of the federal cabinet must make a decision on the project by June and if they approve it the pipeline must still navigate the provincial permitting process.

"Northern Gateway still has a lot of hoops to jump through before it gets approved," Harris said. "I'm sure that Enbridge wants the project to happen so I'm assuming they're going to do whatever it takes to meet those conditions and then they have to through the provincial permits."

The two politicians took issue about the conditions placed on the project by the environmental review panel and how they will be enforced.

Harris said the conditions are strong and when met will ensure the pipeline is built and operated in a safe manner. Cullen countered that he's unsure if the federal bureaucracy is up to the task of keeping tabs on the conditions due to budgetary cutbacks.

"You can put conditions down on paper, but if they don't live in the real world they're just cynical and meaningless," he said. "The Coast Guard has been cut, the [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] has been cut, Environment Canada, all on down the line. So the government says world-class standards, meanwhile they've been cutting back massively on budgets and have been doing so for years."

Cullen and Harris also disagree over the popularity of the project. Cullen said the Conservatives have painted themselves in a corner with their support for the project and will pay at the ballot box during the next scheduled federal election in 2015.

"Going into an election in 2015, B.C. is going to be incredibly important and being on the wrong side of a major lightening-rod issue and Mr. Harper is known for his strategic skills, but on this one he miscalculated the resistance in B.C. and the determination people have to stand up and be heard."

Harris said Cullen has been too busy talking to like-minded people to notice that there is support for the project in B.C.

"It's one thing to run around and say the sky is falling, it's another thing to ensure the sky doesn't fall," he said. "I tend to think that the experts and engineers that designed the structure of the pipeline and the structure of the hulls on the ships and the all the safety measures that are put in, they're not playing at this, they're there for real and they have to do what science will allow them to ensure and that safety is present."

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks