Conservatives walk fine line on Gateway

Between a rock and pipeline: Feds distance themselves from Gateway

  • Jun. 17, 2014 8:00 p.m.
The Canadian Conservative government approved Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline on Tuesday

The Canadian Conservative government approved Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline on Tuesday

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Only two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the Northern Gateway pipeline project as in Canada’s “vital interest.” His natural resources minister called opponents “radicals.”

But on the day that his government gave its sanction to the project – as long as Enbridge Inc. meets 209 conditions – nary a Conservative minister or MP was there to announce it.

The news came, instead, via a colourless release with the bureaucratic title “Government of Canada Accepts Recommendation to Impose 209 Conditions on Northern Gateway Proposal.” The usual prefix, “Harper Government,” was absent.

The surgical gloves approach speaks volumes on the tough position the Conservative government find itself in on the project.

On the one hand, it cannot distance itself entirely from a project and a review process that is has backed, nor abandon its support for the Canadian resource sector and the push to get Alberta oil to tidewater.

On the other hand, Northern Gateway is no done deal, and continuing to hitch a political wagon to something that might never see the light of day doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Harper, who responded in question period to the issue before the announcement, focused squarely on the review process.

“This government has approved some projects, not approved others, and conditionally approved some, based on the findings of panels, based on the finding of fact,” Harper said.

The NDP and the Liberals immediately jumped on the announcement as an opportunity to make political hay. The New Democrats already have a website entitled “Take Back our Coasts,” with lines such as “Stephen Harper will do anything to push his big oil agenda. Don’t let him risk our coast, too.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair vowed to set aside the decision should he win office in 2015, and predicted it would be a ballot box question during the next campaign. He addressed reporters flanked by members of his BC caucus.

“It already is an election issue in British Columbia, that’s why the more than 20 Conservative MPs (from the province) are hiding under their desks right now,” Mulcair said.

The Liberals, meanwhile, take a slightly different tack – they are opposed to Northern Gateway but not to the Keystone XL pipeline project into the United States.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says the main issue is that the Conservatives have made a mess of the natural resources file.

“This government has actually hindered our ability to get our resources to market by not doing its homework, by not standing up for long-term environmental sustainability and not building the right kind of partnerships with communities including First Nations communities,” said Trudeau.

Still, pipeline politics might not be as cut and dry as the NDP or the Liberals might hope in British Columbia. Former B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix drew fire when he suddenly opposed the twinning Kinder Morgan pipeline.

And while polls suggest a majority of British Columbians are opposed to the Northern Gateway project, that still leaves large numbers of voters who aren’t – leaving the Conservatives to brand themselves as the only choice of citizens who support natural resource development and the jobs it might bring.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day, who represented a B.C. riding, says there’s no way the government could have said no to the Northern Gateway project. He also doesn’t envision a major threat to Conservatives seeking re-election in the province.

“If they were seen to abandon this project just for political reasons, and in spite of the significant environmental go ahead that it’s been given, the level of cynicism would be extremely high,” said Day, who is a supporter of the pipeline.

“If they cancelled a project of this nature just for political reasons, it would outstrip anything that (former Ontario premier) Dalton McGuinty and Premier Wynne will continue to face on the cancellation of their gas plants projects to the tune of about a billion dollars.”

Just Posted

Hirsch Creek Golf Course Volunteer, Augie Penner, talking about how he continues the tradition, set by Joe Atamchuck, to catch and release fry that keep spawning at the course. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat golf course volunteers making moves for the fishlings

During the highwater season, salmon are known to lay their eggs in the ponds at the golf course

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to whale research, conservation initiative

Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the area

The Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre will be closed from June 28 until September 13 for annual facility maintenance as well as teach pool and decking repairs. (Black Press photo)
Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre closed: June 28 – September 13

The aquatic centre will be closed for annual facility maintenance

Shoes are being left at the viewpoint on Haisla Blvd in response to the 215 bodies discovered at the Kamloops Residential School. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Haisla Nation responds to 215 Indigenous children found buried at the site of Kamloops Indian Residential School

“Many Haisla children were sent far away, to places such as Port Alberni, and to Coqualeetza”

Susan Jay hosted a plant and garage sale on May 25 and donated all of her proceeds to the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation to help with the purchase of a new bus for residents at Mountain View Lodge, Delta King and the new Kitimat Valley Housing Society dementia home. (Barbara Campbell photo)
KGHF thanks Susan Jay for her help to purchase a new bus for seniors in multi-level care

Susan donated all proceeds to KGHF, her efforts netted the hospital foundation a total of $1,760

Hirsch Creek Golf Course Volunteer, Augie Penner, talking about how he continues the tradition, set by Joe Atamchuck, to catch and release fry that keep spawning at the course. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat golf course volunteers making moves for the fishlings

During the highwater season, salmon are known to lay their eggs in the ponds at the golf course

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read