READERS WRITE: A mailbag of letters from readers on the Kitimat plebiscite

A collection of letters printed in the April 9 Northern Sentinel on the issue of the plebiscite.

Dear Sir,

We shouldn’t accept the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

Not for jobs. The project is incredibly short on jobs for its size and implications.

Neither should we accept it for the little it will contribute to public programs like education and health care.

Canadians are  simply being ripped off with this raw bitumen export scheme, but then Northern Gateway Pipelines wasn’t really meant to be in our interest. It’s a plan by Big Oil to grow their profits with little regards to anything except their investors.

Relentless advertising keeps showing images about how safe and how good the project is. But that advertising ignores the dark side – that the project will add to climate change in a very big way, that it is a hog when it comes to energy use overall, the many adverse impacts it will likely have in our region, and that leaks and spills can and will happen even with modern systems.

Canceling Northern Gateway could become the first step on the road to a smarter economy in Canada.

An economy that will benefit everyone without depriving future generations of essential resources, or sacrificing nature. It’s up to us.

Please say no to Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines.


Per Norman

Dear Sir,

The whole scenario of the influx of Enbridge employees knocking on our doors telling us it is good to vote yes reminds me of the old cowboy movies of the 1950’s.

The plot usually involved a cattle baron who lusts after the acreage and water rights of a small town.

He sends to the town a small army of gun slingers and all around intimidators and bad people. Enbridge’s people take a little softer approach, admittedly.

Its only opposition is a small group of courageous and worthy locals who stand up to him and win the day  against all odds.

I hope Douglas Channel Watch will win the day as they are certainly the ‘outgunned’ locals.

Another thing that annoys me, I have had a long hard look at Enbridge’s signs that are popping up like mushrooms after a rain. We get a lot of that in Kitimat. Mushrooms, not signs.

They say ‘vote yes for our future.’

What is this ‘our’? The signs are paid for by Enbridge and placed where they are by Enbridge employees. It should seem clear the ‘our’ refers to Enbridge. (Corporate profits and all that.) Not about the best interests and future of the citizens of this fine town where I have lived for so many years. Unlike the Enbridge employees who knocked on my door late last week. One was from Vancouver the other from Calgary.

So they should care about our future? Their boss’s profit? Yes. The people of Kitimat? No.


Brian Kean

Dear Sir,

The United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union-Unifor spent two years engaged in the Enbridge Joint Review Panel (JRP) process and the hearings in Prince George and Prince Rupert.

This is some of what we learned:

1.  Oil companies will maintain present production levels even if the pipeline is not built.

2.  The union representing Alberta refinery workers proved that the Alberta economy would be better off refining present tar sands production, than increasing production and piping it overseas.  New refining jobs would create provincial wealth in the form of wages, instead of pipeline profits.

3.  The JRP found a large bitumen spill would cause ‘significant adverse environmental effects’ and recovery could take a very long time. Decades in the case of the Alaska Exxon Valdez spill.

4.  The Panel findings were very limited as they refused to look at the impacts of a pipeline spill into important salmon rivers like the Morice, Copper or Kitimat on the commercial or recreational sectors.

5. Expert evidence showed that, depending on the type of oil, impacts on fish will range from immediate mortality to long term effects from degraded genetics.

6.  The Panel ruled that small oil spills are inevitable but accepted Enbridge’s optimism that catastrophic accidents are unlikely to happen.  And clean-up will be immediate and effective.

The JRP ignored northern residents’ testimony that easy and swift access to a pipeline spill was improbable after a landslide or during fall and winter storms.

Nor did they listen to experienced mariners who gave evidence on the ferocity of maritime storms and the numbers of large ships that have grounded even with pilots and the latest in navigational technology.

All fisheries, First Nations, recreational, and commercial rely on healthy fish resources.  Freshwater and marine fish will be at too great a risk if this project goes ahead.

Joy Thorkelson,

Northern Representative,


Dear Sir,

On April 12, I’ll be voting yes in support of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which has undergone thorough public and scientific scrutiny.

In December, a non-partisan panel recommended moving ahead with the pipeline subject to 209 rigorous environmental and socio-economic conditions.

Pipelines are not new to this country, this province, or this region.   Canadians know how to build safe pipelines — they’ve been building them since the 1850s.  We’ve learned a lot in that time, and modern pipelines are the safest way to transport Canada’s oil. Northern Gateway will provide direct economic benefits to Kitimat, including 180 jobs and some $5 million in tax revenue, while ensuring our beautiful environment is protected.


Dennis La Hue

Dear Sir,

The mayor and council’s planned April 12 plebiscite is symbolic of a weak leader, weak leadership.

They want to gauge their audience in preparation for the November 2014 municipal election. They have been reactive since the start of the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal.

They do not seek resolution/solution from the plebiscite. It’s all about votes in November.

We need our mayor and council to change from their perpetual reactive (do nothing) position on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to one of being proactive on behalf of their constituents.

Or, we need a change of mayor and council this coming November.


Tony Deni

Dear Sir,

I have been thinking hard about why the result of our plebiscite is so important to Enbridge and have arrived at some conclusions that I would like to share with my fellow citizens of Kitimat.

A plebiscite is just an opinion poll, binding on no one, least of all the federal government which will have the final say on whether Enbridge goes through or not.  So that means our little vote is simply about appearances.

Does Enbridge appear to have the town’s support or not?  If the vote goes in their favour they can plaster it all over the millions of dollars worth of advertising they are already buying daily across the country.  If not, not.  They can ignore it – it’s just an opinion poll.

But a funny thing is happening on the way to voting booth. Douglas Channel Watch (our local group of foreign funded, fringe radicals and enemies of Canada (according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper) who have worked themselves to the point of exhaustion opposing Enbridge after work and on weekends) got busy putting up signs, knocking on doors, writing letters, and lo and behold the plebiscite became big news!

The British Broadcasting Corporation phoned them to ask what was going on.  So did our own CBC.  And messages of support came pouring in from all over the world, some even sent money!

I think what is happening here is that Enbridge has never been told no before. Big Oil as a whole, has never been told no, not by governments, certainly not by local citizens.  And now, for the first time, anywhere in the world, they are being told no. The world is watching and we’re setting a precedent.

Big Oil is accustomed to deciding what they want to do in air-conditioned offices far from where the turmoil is, and then doing exactly what they want to do, exactly the way they want to do it.

It’s how they’ve always done business, everywhere. They throw large sums of money at the locals and think that it buys them a social licence to do as much environmental damage as they deem cost effective or out of their hands.

But they’re being told no now in a big way by people who are unpaid volunteers who believe that there’s more future in clean water and healthy communities than in all the high risk bitumen in the Alberta tar sands. Like spoiled children they just can’t stand to be told no.

On April 12 vote no.  It’ll be good for them and us.


Elizabeth Thorne

Dear Sir,

In regards to resource development and more specifically the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP), after speaking with many in our community I feel most will agree with two basic statements.

1) When exporting our natural resources, we should be able to extract as many jobs as possible from that resource.

2) Any proposed project shouldn’t cause any adverse environmental damage when comparing the risks involved with the overall benefits.

Statement 1

The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project doesn’t adequately address this. If accepted, this project will in fact be shipping away a good portion of jobs as well as the diluted bitumen. What is currently on the table doesn’t maximize the true value of this resource by creating the associated employment opportunities with jobs such as with refining. Citizens from distant countries will.

This is therefore “not in the best interests of Canadians”. This was one question tasked to the Joint Review Panel (JRP) by the National Energy Board (NEB) during the recent NGP hearings. It is in the best interests of some, including oil companies who have relentlessly lobbied the current federal government and of course Enbridge. This is clearly not in the best interests of Canadians, the people our government was elected to represent.

Statement 2

When cross-examined at the JRP hearings in Prince George in October 2012, Enbridge expert witness Dr. Jack Ruitenbeek admitted that the chance of a spill of any particular size was higher than 70.9 per cent.

A more accurate study was done to put Enbridge’s submitted data into context. According to Dr. Shane Rollans, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, Thompson Rivers University, the chance of a medium or large spill is an alarming 87 per cent over the 50-year period of this project. There is a 60 per cent chance of at least two and 33 per cent of at least three medium or large spills. This document was admitted and received as late evidence to the JRP in their consideration of this project.

Enbridge had every opportunity to dispute, challenge or cross-examine Dr. Rollans, this report and the calculations in it. They chose not to. Why? Because the calculations are accurate from the data Enbridge presented in Enbridge’s application for the NGP, to the National Energy Board.

This is all data that Enbridge submitted and the risks would certainly be much higher now than when they filed their application for this project when considering:

It’s Enbridge’s own data,

This was presented without considering the extra expected LNG tanker traffic,

The pipeline design allows for carrying capacity of 60 per cent more bitumen and 40 per cent more natural gas condensate than cited in the current proposal.

After considering the two above statements, it is obvious to me that Enbridge’s inability to maximize employment opportunities and their empty environmental assurances aren’t enough to convince me the risks outweigh the rewards. I will therefore be voting no on April 12.


Kelly Marsh

Dear Sir,

We write to express our concerns about the Northern Gateway, and export of diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Kitimat through the Douglas Channel. We are pleased that you have committed to a plebescite to determine voters preferences, but we are concerned that massive spending by the proponents will bias the outcome.

We believe the risks associated with this project far outweigh any short-term benefit for Kitimat, and that both the science and the economic benefits have been largely misrepresented by the industry and by the federal government.  In 2012, the Canadian taxpayer benefit was about $9 per “barrel of oil equivalent”, less than one-fifth of Norway’s per-barrel return rates in the same year.

Information obtained by CBC under access to information law found that the rate of overall pipeline incidents in Canada doubled between 2000 and 2011, with the highest incidence in B.C. Such incidents are much more dangerous when the product in the pipe is “dilbit”.  It was diluted bitumen from the Bakken Oil Shale deposits which blew up in Lac Megantic – and had been misrepresented by the shippers as conventional crude oil.

The industry implies that all “crude oil” is essentially the same. This is untrue. There are three different products: conventional crude, synthetic crude, and dilbit. Synthetic crude oil – produced by “heavy oil upgraders” – approximates the characteristics of conventional light crude. However, such “upgraders” – actual refineries that extensively process the bitumen – are expensive, and the majority-foreign owners of the tar-sands are not building additional upgraders in Alberta, preferring to reap a larger value-add by shipping the raw product overseas, rather than refining it in Canada.  So dilbit, not synthetic crude, is to be shipped via Kitimat, and attempts to spin this as “just crude oil” are an outright misrepresentation by government and industry that does not pass the “truth in advertising” test. The industry attempts to hide the composition of “dilbit” as a “trade secret”. Dilbit is known to regularly contain highly flamable and potentially carcinogenic compounds – basically whatever is cheapest diluent at the time – such as benzene, toluene, hexane, and the like.

The Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo in 2010 is an example of the problem of dilbit in and around waterways. A similar spill in the Kitimat watershed would destroy the livelihoods of a good portion of the citizenry and seriously impact property values, as happened in Kalamazoo. It would have serious externalized health impacts and costs, and the long term effects on wildlife and fish is immeasureable. In the challenging waters of Douglas inlet, the inevitable tanker incident will be catastrophic for Kitimat’s economy.

In an area not that far removed from the Exxon Valdez disaster, one would hope many politicians and citizens would understand this.

Finally, there is the question of responsible tar sands development. It has been estimated that to avoid runaway climate change, only 20 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves can be exploited.  If Canada were both charging market rates and upgrading in Alberta or BC, then only a small portion of the reserves would generate the same economic benefit within Canada. James Hansen, world renouned climate scientist put it this way: “If Canada proceeds {with planned extraction and pipelines}, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.”

Sincerely, Abell, R.A., Porcher, I.F.,

Venkatasamy, R.,

Van der Merwe, S. J., Babot, J.,

Gordon Macpherson, Broomfield A.P.,

Katebaka, R.,

Nistler, J.L.,  Donnelly, R., Howard, N.P., Ashton, G.P.