With a springtime provincial election inching closer, provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix touched down in B.C.’s northwest yesterday for a first-hand look at what’s shaping up to be a key election issue.
Dix, the leader of the official opposition, landed in Terrace Sunday, with plans to meet with local governments before boarding a boat to travel the Douglas Channel — the route oil tanker traffic would take should Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project come to fruition.
Dix says meeting with local governments and coastal First Nations along proposed tanker routes means a deeper and more localized understanding of the pipeline and resulting tanker traffic issue, which his party will be taking a firm stand against. He also criticized the current B.C. Liberal government for five preconditions it set last week to be met prior to provincial support of the project.
“The B.C. Liberal party … is seemingly quite isolated from people in its approach for this issue,” said Dix.
“I like to hear from people … when I’m talking about the risk of oil spills and the coast,” Dix said. “I’m not just talking about it as some sort of political idea, but I’ve met the people it’s really going to affect.”
Dix criticized the five preconditions set by B.C. Liberals last week; successful completion of the federal environmental review; a world-leading marine oil spill prevention, response and recovery system; world-leading land spill prevention and response measures; the addressing of aboriginal and treaty rights, including First Nation participation and benefits; and a ‘fair share’ of the economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the elevated risk.
Dix said the preconditions are hiding Liberal favour of the project.
“They’re only condition really is that we get a fist full of dollars from somewhere, and then we’re prepared to take the environmental and economic risks,” he said, poking holes in four other conditions set.
“It effectively states that we have to be able to clean up after an oil spill. Well, no kidding,” said Dix. “[The NDP would] prefer there not be an oil spill.”
He added that First Nations participation and benefits is something already required of Enbridge, and that the province could have done its own environmental review of the project, but didn’t.
“The joint review process condition, well in that case the Liberal government gave up our jurisdiction,” said Dix, noting that the province relied on the federal review process but never participated in it. “The Liberal government decided to sign over that authority to the federal government, which supports the project.”
“It certainly doesn’t respect the view of people in this region, or the people in B.C.,” said Dix.
And should the NDP be the new provincial leaders after this spring’s election, Dix said the province’s stance would shift to one of opposition.
But by that point, the window to participate in the federal review process will be gone — and even if the federal review process turns a result against the project, new federal powers mean that decision could be overturned.
Dix says, in that case, the NDP are looking at what powers the province has to put a stop to it.
“I’ve put together a legal team to assess all of the options available to us, both upon us becoming government and after a potential decision by the joint review panel,” he said. “We are putting together and preparing … so that we’re able to use the provincial jurisdiction of the people of B.C.”