Harper Cabinet Ministers Push Pipeline Agenda in BC

Deputy ministers from seven departments are to arrive in BC next week to help garner support for pipeline projects amongst aboriginals

By: Hyder Owainati, Staff Writer

In an effort to sway detractors and advance oil-pipeline developments on the nation’s West Coast, an envoy of Harper cabinet ministers will travel to British Columbia starting next week.

The two major pipelines under contention are Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline. Both would link Alberta’s oil sands with major ports in BC.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper views these oil-pipelines as major mechanisms for national economic growth. Essentially, representing a means to reinforce his 2006 proclamation that Canada is an “energy superpower.”

Plans of a meeting between incoming Ottawa bureaucrats and First Nations leaders are already underway. Expected to convene on Sept. 23 in Vancouver, those attending will include Grand Chief Stewart Philip (Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs) and deputy ministers of Aboriginals Affairs, Environment, and other relevant departments.

In a letter to Grand Chief Edward John, deputy Minister for Natural Resources Serge Dupont stated that discussions would focus on: “initiatives to strengthen environmental protection, improve marine and pipeline safety and enhance Aboriginal participation in resource development.”

First Nations groups represent a significant source of opposition to the pipeline issue. At least three First Nations contest against the $5 billion upgrade of the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain Pipeline. A project, which if completed, would effectively triple the amount of crude oil transported each day to 890,000 barrels.

“The purpose of the meeting would be to engage in dialogue with you and your key council members to better understand the issues and priorities of our communities in respect of proposed or future resource and infrastructure development opportunities,” writes Serge Dupont (deputy minister for natural resources) to Grand Chief Edward John.

Instigating a change in opinion on the matter of oil-pipelines in BC will be a hard-pressed task for Prime Minister Harper and engaging critics may not prove adequate. The provincial BC government has already voiced opposition to the 1170 kilometer long Northern Gateway pipeline, citing environmental concerns and inadequate economic incentives.

Much of public-opinion is also swayed against oil-pipe developments. Many fear the consequences of a potential oil leak.

Regardless, Stephen Harper’s recent actions have signalled that he is adamant to continue his pursuit of building oil pipelines to the West Coast. Something that ForestEthics campaigner Tzeporah Berman sees as a “sign of desperation.”

The issue is not clear-cut however, as BC ports would facilitate greater exports of crude-oil to Asian markets that would bring in huge profits and help generate employment.  The Northern Gateway project alone is estimated to create 35,444 person-years of employment from 2009 to 2017 and $1.2 billion in tax revenue for BC.

Hyder Owainati is a student at the University of Toronto, who loves to write short stories, read books and collect comics. You can follow his work at http://the-three-muses.tumblr.com/ 

Feature and Banner images courtesy of Loozrboy

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