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‘We need to maintain the rule of law’: BC Liberal leader talks pipeline dispute, northern resource sectors

Andrew Wilkinson believes north will provide ‘strong future’ for province’s economy
Andrew Wilkinson in Prince George - Jan. 28, 2020
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks to the media in Prince George alongside local MLA Shirley Bond (via Kyle Balzer)

Andrew Wilkinson says two years is too long for a pipeline to be delayed from getting built.

The BC Liberal leader made time during his stop in Prince George this week to speak with local media on a number of subjects, primarily responding to John Horgan’s latest move in the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline dispute.

The Premier announced Nathan Cullen’s hiring as the liaison between all parties involved yesterday (Jan. 27), much to the disappointment of Wilkinson.

He hopes for success in the process, but says he isn’t holding his breath.

“We do hope that there’s the quiet diplomacy going on right now where the faction of the Wet’suwet’en who were engaged in this blockade will come to their senses and realize that this country is governed by the rule of law,” said Wilkinson today (Jan. 28) at MLA Shirley Bond’s office. 

“They’ve got access to the courts just like everyone else and that’s where they should take their grievances. Hopefully this will all be resolved in the foreseeable future and we can get on with the inevitable with the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. [...] They’re [NDP] ashamed of what has happened, they’re reluctant to go to the front line. The Wet’suwet’en have stated their position, they only want to talk to John Horgan, so now, they’ve appointed an unemployed NDP former member of parliament to take on the task.”

When asked if he would accept an invitation to meet with the Wet’suwet’en, the Leader of the Opposition in the B.C. Legislature said it would be inappropriate to do so.

“We need to maintain the rule of law in this province,” he said, adding the province is fortunate enough to see its Premier accept court orders, but it’s an action that could’ve been ‘done two years ago.’

“There’s no suggestion from the federal government that they have any concerns about it. If you have the rule of law, peace and order in good government and democratic society, then that should proceed. What we’ve seen is two years of the NDP dragging their feet, hugging and making friends with the protesters, trying to play both sides of the fence, you can’t do that. When you have a legal system, you have to pursue and follow it.”

A court injunction was given to go through with the CGL pipeline on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31), which is set to fuel the $40-billion LNG plant in Kitimat and create thousands of jobs.

In addition to waiting on the project to get started, the northern B.C. region has seen its share of economic downturn across a number of industries, primarily in forestry.

B.C. recently set up job offices in the central interior to help displaced workers find new jobs and training opportunities.

When asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters if the region should be worried about still being a contributor to the province’s economy, Wilkinson placed his confidence in the people.

“It’s the resource hub for the province and it’s got a very capable, well-trained, independent, very effective collection of people who live here, and they expect to be here for the long term,” he replied. 

“There are very vibrant industries in this part of the world [...] So, somehow, for people in Victoria who’ve never been here, or dropped in once a year when the weather is nice, to say ‘Oh, we’re not going to worry about the north,’ is to dismiss a core and important part of British Columbia’s geography, our society and the whole culture of the province.”

The BC Liberal leader pointed to his time as a ‘young doctor in Dease Lake’ as one of the examples of understanding about the northern spirit and drive for success.

He claims, despite the six per cent provincial population and two-thirds of its area-coverage, to see a ‘strong future’ in the region, adding if he’s elected Premier in 2021, he would put a Premier’s office in Prince George.

BC Natural Resources Forum continues tomorrow (Jan. 29) when Premier Horgan will deliver a keynote speech at Noon.