Point/counterpoint: the Northern Gateway pipeline

Let’s build the pipeline.

Dustin Simmonds

As much as opponents do not want this pipeline built, the alternatives are potentially much more devastating. While I will be the first to admit that pipelines are not safe due to the potential for spills, they currently remain the safest way to transport a material that is only valuable because it is highly combustible. 

Some would argue that rail transport is better than pipelines. But to say so is to ignore the massive damage this method risks: just less than a year ago, a train derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and levelling large portions of the town. If you go on Google Earth, you can still see the devastation. 

Furthermore, it is vastly more expensive, with the estimated cost of shipping oil sands to the American Gulf Coast — the route of another potential pipeline — close to five times the cost of moving it via the Northern Gateway.

It’s also worth mentioning that Northern Gateway has distinct advantages over southern routes, including the other most prominent proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL. Number one, it will be much easier to get the pipeline approved and built, as demonstrated by the lack of progress our government has had convincing the United States to press forward with Keystone. 

These resources do not do our country any good sitting in Alberta when they could be bringing in much needed revenue.

Moving forward with Northern Gateway instead of Keystone also means more jobs for Canadians, as the leaders of the project have already committed to providing over $3 million in funding for BC communities independent of Northern Gateway’s final approval, and estimate the pipeline will create over 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs, which translates into $32 million per year flowing into local economies. 

Other suggested pipelines include the NDP’s proposed west-east pipeline, which they say will have the advantage of keeping the refining jobs in Canada. While I like the idea of refining Canadian oil in house and exporting the finished product, the truth of the matter is that Canadian refineries are currently not equipped to refine what is coming out of Alberta’s oil sands, and wouldn’t have the capacity to deal with this proposed pipeline even if they could do so.

I do not wish to belittle the fact that there are environmental hazards in moving forward with this project. But these resources do not do our country any good sitting in Alberta when they could be bringing in much needed revenue. It is estimated that this project will bring in an additional $300 billion in GDP over 30 years, which includes about $1 billion in tax revenue for British Columbia. 

We must not sacrifice the economic growth and the future of both our province and our country out of concern for a disaster.

Are you kidding? Let’s not.

Hannah Lingren

While the federal government may have offered its lukewarm blessing, the well-oiled publicity machine of Enbridge Inc. has failed to convince British Columbians that any economic benefits outweigh the costs and risks that the province must assume. As these become more apparent, it’s clear that this pipeline can’t be built.

As Enbridge attempts to jump through all the hoops laid out by BC and the Joint Review Panel, a number of dedicated people and organizations will be working to discredit this project. As it will likely be years before construction can even begin, there is plenty of time for the gaps, dishonesty, and dangers in the Northern Gateway plans to become obvious. They have already failed to obtain the cooperation of many Aboriginal groups, something integral to the success of the project.

The pipeline would definitely be a boost to the BC economy, but it is incredibly disproportionate to the money Alberta stands to make. In a report released by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, it is estimated that the pipeline will bring in $1 billion in tax revenue for British Columbia, but will also bring in $73 billion dollars in taxes for Alberta, and $4 billion for Ottawa. Another report predicts that BC will only receive $6.7 billion in government revenue, roughly eight per cent of the profit. This is a slap in the face to the province assuming all the environmental risk.

BC will have to worry not about having spills, but rather when they will occur and how bad they will be.

We cannot trust that Enbridge will adequately protect against the risk of an oil spill or leak, especially considering their track record of over 800 spills between 1999 and 2010. In fact, as they were preparing for public hearings in Alberta and BC in 2010, Enbridge was also dealing with 3.3 million litres of oil that spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. 

It seems that BC should worry not about having spills, but rather when they will occur and how bad they will be. A tanker spill in the Douglas Channel, infamous for its difficult navigation, seems inevitable. Such a spill could essentially negate all profits from the pipeline and cause irreparable damage to both local ecosystems and the industries and lifestyles that depend on them. Enbridge themselves seem aware of this: they edited out 1,000 square kilometres of islands from their route map in a televised ad. 

We have found ourselves wringing our hands over oil dependence while pouring all our resources and efforts into turning Canada into an oil exporting powerhouse. Allowing the completion of this project will cement Canada’s dependence on the oil sands, and perpetuate our status as an exporter of primary resources.

In the time we will have spent arguing over this project, the failure of which is inevitable, we could have focused on developing feasible energy alternatives.



  1. “We must not sacrifice the economic growth and the future of both our province and our country out of concern for a disaster.”
    well, let’s actually study the risk of a disaster. Studies out of BC universities and Canadian pipel;ine engineers puts the risk of a catastrophic spill (1000bbl+) at once every ten years with tankers, and one spill every two years on the pipeline.
    That is certain disaster. The question now is are the costs of these potential disasters to Canadians worth the many billions profit to 75% foreign owned oilsands corporations?
    Of course their answer is yes, like they actually care?