Northern Gateway Pipeline Project – Safeguarding our heritage

By Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

The Asia-Pacific region is the largest crude oil consumer and the third largest natural gas user in the world. In 2010, the region is estimated to have used 23 million barrels of oil a day. As one of the world’s largest energy producers, Canada can achieve enormous economic benefits by
serving the Pacific Rim.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline is an initiative to link Canada’s vast energy reserves with the global markets. With the potential to generate thousands of construction jobs and a $270 billion increase to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product over 30 years, the advantages from Northern Gateway can benefit all Canadians.

The project is not without its critics, including those who would simply ban tanker traffic off Canada’s west coast. However, sea transportation of the world’s petroleum products has long been accepted as a means of serving world markets. In fact, tankers and vessels have safely transported oil in B.C. waters for decades. There is a voluntary agreement that tanker traffic from Alaska to the lower 48 U.S. states should avoid inshore routes, but there is no ‘tanker ban’ or legislated moratorium—as is often claimed by opponents of Canadian oil exports.

The potential benefits for B.C. communities are vast. As Canada’s Building Trades Unions note,“If this project goes ahead, it represents a significant opportunity for skilled trades in Canada.” The project proposes significant benefits for Aboriginal Canadians along the right of way, with a 10 per cent ownership in the venture, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in procurement and jobs. Northern B.C. is in desperate need of new investments and new opportunities for its residents to earn a living. Northern Gateway will help bring economic security and hope to the region.

Rejecting this option would mean denying opportunity for First Nations, unions and workers and communities in need of jobs. It would also be a loss of $2.6 billion in revenues to governments that could be used to pay for important public investments like hospitals, roads, schools and social programs.

Protecting Canada’s incredible natural heritage must be a national priority, and as Parks Canada celebrates its 100th birthday, we are reminded of the importance of safeguarding that heritage for future generations. But we need not choose between our natural inheritance and a decent standard of living for our citizens. If we plan properly and responsibly, we can have both. All human activity creates environmental impacts that must be addressed and managed rigorously. Northern Gateway has already outlined some of the safety measures that it will ensure are present, including new navigational aids, radar system improvements and an enhanced emergency response that will significantly improve safety, not just for the project, but for all shipping on B.C.’s north coast.

There is plenty of room to discuss how to ensure that we meet the highest possible standards of environmental protection, but the starting point can’t be a flat refusal to talk to one another.

Northern Gateway will be required to pass an extensive and vigorous study by an independent Joint Review Panel established by the federal government. This process is specifically designed to thoroughly test all aspects of the project—in detail and in public. It enables everyone to have their questions answered and concerns addressed. As part of this public process, the company will have to prove that it can meet the highest standards in environmental protection and safety or the project will not proceed.

It is time for an open and frank discussion to begin. All Canadians—and particularly British Columbians—will benefit if we work together to both protect our heritage and create a more prosperous future for our families.