Since Obama’s drastic decision to hold off judgement on the TransCanada keystone pipeline project until after the presidential elections are over, Harper has been forced in securing alternative trade deals with other countries, and energy hog China is ripe for the picking. To transport the oil to China would require easy access for tankers to receive oil from the coast of BC. The $5.5 billion Northern Gateway project is a twin 1,177-kilometre pipeline system carrying oilsands crude from Bruderheim, Alberta, to a new marine terminal in Kitimat. A second pipeline will run east with condensate (used to thin oil) from Kitimat to Bruderheim. The crude oil is stated to be piped from the oilsands along to Bruderheim through existing pipeline networks.
Those in support of the project state that the project would increase trade diversification for the oilsands, and the project is now before the Joint Review Panel. The members on the panel are the Minister of the Environment (Joe Oliver) and the National Energy Board (NEB) appointees with hearings to begin into March. The majority of the hearings are being heard in B.C. The Joint Review Panel has also opened the hearings to include foreign citizens and grassroots groups as well. This has generated a firestorm of controversy.
National Energy Board (NEB) vice-chairwoman Sheila Leggett stated, “We’ll take whatever time it takes to ensure that everybody’s views are heard.” Greenpeace Canada Climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema criticized Stephen Harper’s comments by saying, “No one should be fooled by this well-orchestrated campaign by multi-national oil companies, their phony front group and the Harper government to silence the opposition to these pipelines and the expansion of the tarsands that they enable.”
Hudema contended, that the oil industry’s own polling results indicate that there are millions of Canadians opposed to the pipeline project. Hudema further goes on to say, “On the one hand, it is heartening to see that the oil industry and the Harper government are scared by the opposition of First Nations, environmental groups, and ordinary people concerned about their health, water, land, and the global climate crisis.”
ForestEthics conducted an independent telephone poll via Forum Research with results that British Columbians are almost split on the pipeline issue. Out of the 1,045 people polled, 41% of people were in favour, 46% were against, and 13% did not have an opinion on the matter. Reference to the results of that polling question can be found here. The controversy has caused delays on the project, with decisions on the pipeline project being delayed until 2013, due to the number of people and organizations – rumoured to be over 4000 – wanting to submit comments to the JRP.
An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted on behalf of Enbridge revealed that support amoung British Colombians was nearly half (with 48% overall supported the project, and 14% strongly supported it) in favour of the project. Whereas one-third were in opposition and two in ten were undecided about the project. In response to these findings, campaign director at Dogwood initiative Eric Swanson stated, “polling number routinely swing enormously depending on how the question is asked. In this case, the question of support for the pipeline is somewhat divorced from the threat of an oil spill.”
Ethicaloil.org, a registered non profit NGO, has urged Canadians to send their support of Canada by asking Joe Oliver to ban foreigners and their local representatives from appearing before the JRP. Kathryn Marshall of Ethicaloil stated, “foreigners and foreign groups are registered to appear before the pipeline review panel and we think Minister Oliver should exclude them. Whether or not Canada decides to build this pipeline is a Canadian decision, based on Canadian interests.”
It is to be mentioned that although Ethical Oil does not accept money from foreign donors, they do accept donations from individuals and companies, including those working to produce “ethical oil”.