Northern Gateway project called bad economics

NDP environment critic, on visit to Terrace, says project threatens local jobs

One of the strongest cases pipeline opponents can make against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline is an economic one, says NDP provincial environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert, who stopped in Terrace this week during a brief tour of the northwest with Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin.

“The local economy is stronger without the Enbridge pipeline and all of its risks,” Herbert said Wednesday in Terrace. “This area’s known as an incredible area for wilderness tourism, for fishing, for all of those kinds of things that have drawn people here and kept people here. You have to respect that economy rather than saying we’ll give you the equivalent of one or two McDonald’s in terms of jobs and risk all of that.”

This is the first time Herbert has been in Terrace since becoming his party’s environment critic following last May’s provincial election. The last time he was in town he was the NDP critic for the arts, culture and tourism.

Herbert, who is the MLA for Vancouver’s West End riding, said he’s not heard from anyone in the area who is in favour of Northern Gateway, which would see Alberta crude shipped via pipeline to a marine terminal at Kitimat for export overseas.

But he did acknowledge that certain supporters of the pipeline have become more vocal since a federal panel late last month recommended that the federal cabinet approve the project, subject to 209 conditions.

“I think people in Vancouver who work at a pipeline company are starting to be more vocal, but I think people up here will not see any real lasting jobs and will risk thousands of jobs, so the tradeoff doesn’t make sense,” Herbert said. “The government can claim it got elected on an economic mandate but no economy can support saying we’ll risk thousands upon thousands of jobs on your environmental health for a few part-time, short-term jobs. That’s bad economic math.”

And he criticized the provincial government’s response to the report.

“Before the [provincial] election the Liberals tried to show that they were opposed to Enbridge but they are now waffling,” he said. “The federal report came out and they didn’t say, ‘well we still say no,’ they said, ‘well let’s see what Stephen Harper decides.’”

The provincial government has outlined five conditions it says need to be met before it will consider approving the project, including a fair share of the economic benefits, world-leading spill prevention and response, and First Nations engagement.

In its formal submission to the federal review panel last year, the province said it was opposed, noting that an effective response to marine oil spills was not possible.