Left Coast not interested in pipedreams

Opinion: Why B.C. is afraid of Alberta oil.

By Matt Law
[media editor]

It is becoming increasingly clear that British Columbians want nothing to do with pipelines.

This current push to pipe raw bitumen, the heaviest and thickest form of petroleum, through B.C.’s pristine wilderness is just another example of Ottawa’s disconnect with the “radicals” out west.

British Columbians are no strangers to exploiting natural resources — this province has been mined, logged and fished for thousands of years — these industries have been vital to the people and our economy.

And despite the current state of our struggling logging industry, a disappearing fisheries and a mining industry constantly embroiled in legal battles, British Columbians do not want oil running through their province.

The spectre of a 1,170-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. — not to mention the tankers navigating dangerously tight channels to pick up the oil — is too much for many West Coasters.

Why? Because accidents happen.

Of course this is partly a fear of the unknown. B.C. isn’t as familiar with the oil industry as our neighbours to the east and the Alberta-oil poster-boy sitting on Parliament Hill.

But the oil industry is viewed through its mistakes, and the images of oil-soaked pelicans are still fresh in people’s minds.

But what about the economic benefit to Canadians? The construction of a pipeline serving the oil-thirsty Asian market would provide a much needed boost to the Canadian economy. Wouldn’t it?

Not according to former president and CEO of ICBC Robyn Allan. Earlier this year, Allan produced a highly critical economic report on the Northern Gateway project. She found that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.”

The report casts serious doubts on claims by Enbridge and Ottawa that the project will benefit Canadians.

In fact, Allan states that there would be a negative overall effect on Canadians due to a $2 to $3 rise in gas prices over the next 30 years.

Of course, while Enbridge refutes these claims, Stephen Harper is in China saying it is “increasingly clear that it is in Canada’s national interest to diversify our energy markets.”

Come again? Didn’t we just find out it is not in Canada’s interest.

Is Allan just another “radical” looking to stop any and all developments in Canada? Doubtful. She is a highly respected economist who was once voted one of Canada’s top 200 CEOs by the National Post. Not to mention that Allan, and her study, were backed by the Alberta Federation of Labour — an organisation that has its roots in the mining industry and is dedicated to creating jobs.

The future of the Northern Gateway is undecided but this latest butting of heads between tree-hugging wing nuts and the suits in Ottawa furthers a debate that needs to be had.

Canada needs oil. The whole world needs oil. From your electronics to your car, most of these products are a result of mining and the oil industry. Our society cannot survive without exploiting the resources we have – and this needs to change.