Anti-Enbridge vote touches off debate

A Feb. 13 decision to oppose Enbridge's pipeline project sent a political message that touched off a series of events last week in Terrace.

  • Feb. 20, 2012 6:00 a.m.

THE ENBRIDGE Northern Gateway pipeline route may not be within the jurisdiction of Terrace’s city council, but a  Feb. 13 decision to oppose the project has sent a political message that touched off a series of events last week.

The 5-2 vote, which changed a decision made last April for city council to remain neutral at least through the federal environmental review process now underway, was preceded by statements by council members.

“I believe Terrace is open for business, it’s just not for sale at any price, “ said councillor Bruce Bidgood during the Feb. 13 council meeting.

Councillors James Cordeiro, who initiated the vote, Stacey Tyers, Marylin Davies, Bidgood and Lynne Christiansen voted in favour of opposing the project while mayor Dave Pernarowski and councillor Brian Downie voted to stay neutral.

The motion put forward by Cordeiro called for council to endorse two 2010 motions passed by the Union of BC Municipalities.

Motion B140 called for the provincial association of local governments to oppose “the shipping of tar sand oil in pipelines across northern B.C. for loading onto crude oil tankers.”

Motion B139 called for opposition to “any expansion of bulk crude oil tanker traffic in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia.”

“I’m concerned how this affects investments in the community,” said Downie, adding that despite this he too has concerns about risks associated with the project.

But Downie added that waiting until a formal review process to be complete means concern can be tempered with expert opinion.

He urged council to defer taking a stand until after evidence was heard from the Northern Gateway review panel.

“When I looked at the resolution I was wondering whether these resolutions were really even relevant (as they are nearly two-year-old UBCM motions),” said Downie.

“However, I understand the motivation.”

“It’s important as leaders in this community that we take a stand one way or the other,” said Tyers in expressing opposition.

“Just because … city councils in the province have not taken a stand doesn’t mean we stop being a  progressive leader.”

“We all know I’m a free enterpriser,” said Davies. “(But) I just don’t see what’s in it for us.”

“The environmental risk for me is just way too high,” said Christiansen.

Pernarowski joined Downie in urging council to wait until a later date to take a stand, saying any official declaration at this point is premature.

However, he did note that personally, he has concerns about the project. “I’m opposed, but as a municipal body representing this community … it puts us in a precarious position,” he said.

Pernarowski met with officials from the city’s economic development arm, the Terrace Economic Development Authority (TEDA), the day after the council vote.

TEDA had been talking with Enbridge about potential economic benefits that could arise from the $5.5 billion project to build an oil pipeline from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat. It had sent a letter to council urging it to stay neutral.

“Last fall in a presentation, I challenged council to continue to promote Terrace as a service centre. This challenge has not changed,” said TEDA chair Rob Dykman.

This challenge has not changed and I would ask the mayor and council to reflect how this decision would have an adverse effect on that message,” he continued.

Following the meeting with Pernarowksi, Dykman said TEDA would stop pursuing potential economic benefits with Enbridge.

“TEDA is primarily supported by the City of Terrace as the economic development arm,” said TEDA chair Rob Dykman. “We kind of take our guidance from the city as far as what projects to endorse and pursue.”

“While I’m disappointed, it’s a democratic society and a majority of votes wins,” said Dykman. “The Enbridge project is one of many; we will pursue economic development in different areas.”

“It’s not that we’re working with the project directly,” he continued. “We’re just trying to find economic opportunities that may be a spinoff.”

The TEDA board’s underlying concern was that saying no to the pipeline could hurt local businesses as Terrace might be viewed as being unfriendly to economic development.

“At this point, we don’t know the ramifications,” said Dykman of city council’s decision.

Oil and gas businesses work closely together, said Dykman, adding that he’s worried that large corporations eying liquefied natural gas plants in Kitimat might now avoid Terrace businesses.

Still, Dykman said Enbridge is not the only potential large-scale economic development in the region and that TEDA will focus on those other opportunities.