Criteria for Enbridge pipeline good for B.C.

By Benedict Reiners
Photos by Eric Miller

Recently, in response to both the Alberta and federal governments pushing for B.C. to allow Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline to be built through the province, the B.C. government issued a set of five criteria that the project must meet in order for the province to allow it. These criteria aim to do a variety of tasks, and focus on the protection of the environment with three of the five criteria. The other two terms deal with B.C.’s financial compensation for its part in the project, and the rights of the First Nations who will be affected by the project. Though the terms laid are far from ideal, and will likely do little to even slow the project, let alone stop it, they represent the provincial government doing what it can with the little influence it has.

Criticism for the criteria has come from a variety of sources, with many, notably the Albertan provincial government, who say that B.C. should not stand in the way of such a large economic development. Environmentalists have opposed it too, suggesting that what B.C. needs to do is not simply set up a series of criteria, but rather refuse the project outright. However, even they must realize that they couldn’t just stop this project in its tracks, not with the current attitudes of both the federal and Alberta governments. Judging by the efforts of these two groups pushing this project forwards, the pipeline is likely to be made, one way or another, and at this point even environmentalists must see that the best that the provincial government can do is stall it, ensure that any spills will be cleaned up as efficiently as possible, and milk it for what it’s worth to the province.

One thing that the environmentalists should like is the inclusion of terms demanding an expedient, efficient cleanup. The fact remains that there is a high probability that there will be a spill at some point, sooner or later. When that happens, the best thing that opponents of the project can hope for will be that it will be cleaned up expediently, with as little damage being done to the environment as possible, and that those responsible for the project will be held accountable when such problems come to light. These criteria aim to make sure this happens.

The criteria have actually put the federal government in a difficult place, and could take them out of the process to some degree, something that the environmentalists should like. If the Tories push it through without accepting the terms of the criteria, they will look like the bad guys in B.C., and will likely suffer a blow to their popularity in our province. However, if they validate the terms, Alberta will respond similarly, and the Tories will risk offending their base. This may have even pushed the federal government towards supporting B.C.’s demands, had it not been for the fact that they already know that in all likelihood, almost anyone who would consider themselves environmentalists would not vote for them in the first place.

If anything, the best thing that the B.C. government did in the criteria to prevent the federal government from just pushing the project through was to involve groups other than just environmentalists. This is most prominent in the monetary terms, which instantly make sure that it’s in everyone in the province’s best interest to have the criteria implemented. This has also been done on a more narrowly defined level as well, with the inclusion of terms for B.C.’s First Nations. These terms mean that anyone trying to push aside the criteria is essentially attempting to push aside First Nations’ rights, likely offending many First Nations groups not only in B.C., but across the country. This may not have stopped either this government, or others before it from pushing forward projects in the past, but at least it means that, come Election Day, they may feel its consequences.

Although B.C. may not be the source of the oil heading through the pipeline, it will bear most of the risk for it. As such, it deserves to be rightfully compensated and given a say in how the project will move forward. We’re facing an uphill battle, but at least the province is doing what it can.