Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen says if the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project wasn't dead before the NDP sweep of the Alberta provincial election, it is now.
NDP leader Rachel Notley led her party to an historic victory in this week's provincial election, overturning decades of Progressive Conservative rule, and promising her majority government would bring change to Alberta.
Part of that change is her stance on Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline, which as proposed would transport heavy crude from Alberta to a terminal in Kitimat where it would then be shipped to eastern markets.
Notley knocked out PC premier Jim Prentice, who resigned not only the party leadership but also his seat.
Before becoming leader of the PCs, Prentice had been tasked with shoring up support for Northern Gateway. The controversial pipeline was approved by the federal government nearly a year ago, subject to 209 conditions, and the company has been working towards meeting those conditions.
“Rachel Notley was elected in with a strong majority government on a mandate to not pursue the Northern Gateway pipeline,” said Cullen. “If this were such an important pipeline and people had great hopes and expectations that would have been very difficult for her to win.”
Enbridge Northern Gateway released a statement to media yesterday saying that the company looks forward to sitting down with the new Alberta government to provide an update on the project and their partnerships with First Nations in Alberta and B.C.
“We share a vision with the new Alberta government for world leading environmental protections for energy projects,” read the statement. “We believe that our vision for this project will earn the support of the new government and we look forward to this dialogue.”
Cullen said he doesn't know what else it will take for the company to give up its pipeline plans.
“This is another nail in the coffin. Enbridge, if they don't know that, then they're not very bright – and we know they're bright because they hire a lot of expensive people,” he said.
And Cullen thinks the company should spend more time pursuing projects that have the endorsement and support of First Nations, citing preliminary plans between Enbridge and Kitselas to explore geothermal opportunities on Kitselas territory near the Lakelse hot springs.
“Why fight against communities,” he said. “Why not work with us?”
The election of Notley and an NDP government in Alberta “changes the conversation” on energy in Canada, said Cullen. Over the past several months Cullen campaigned on his private members bill, which, along with banning supertankers off the north coast, focussed on a value-added energy plan – something Notley speaks of as well.
“She's also suggested that value-added is very important to changing the math on these pipelines – changing the risk and reward with these pipelines,” he said. “Getting away from one pipeline or another... broadening the conversation.”
Cullen speaks in the House of Commons May 6: