THE TERRACE business community’s leading voice says it would welcome any economic development opportunities arising from Enbridge’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline should it be approved.
And the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce also says it is taking a neutral position on the project pending the completion of an extensive federal environmental review.
The statements are in an open letter to Enbridge and to other investors released yesterday by the chamber.
It’s in response to this week’s decision by city council to effectively oppose Enbridge’s plan to pump oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
Council members cited environmental risk and inadequate economic benefits to the city as reasons for opposing the pipeline.
“It is our position that this decision was premature and as a Chamber, we support economic development as it underpins all of our social programs be it education, health or infrastructure,” the chamber said in the letter bearing the name of first vice president and acting president Gordon Stamp-Vincent.
It acknowledged that capital investment goes “where it is appreciated and where opportunities abound.”
The letter said the chamber wants the environmental review to “assess the concerns of affected parties and contrast them with procedures and equipment being positioned to mitigate any and all perceived risks.”
While the letter (which can be read in its entirety on Page A9) introduced the chamber as the “voice of business” in and around Terrace, some members are saying it doesn’t represent their voice.
Former city councillor Bruce Martindale, a long-time critic of Enbridge’s pipeline who advocated for the city’s opposed stance back in April 2011 when it instead decided to remain neutral, is one of those people.
“To take the position that we need to accept all business plans, good or bad, ethical or unethical, to get any is pathetic, weak and desperate not to mention displaying a complete lack of integrity,” wrote Martindale, the owner of McBike.
“It’s too bad that the Terrace Chamber of Commerce feels it cannot support a position that displays the kind of business principles and practices that I think myself and most of my fellow business owners here in Terrace would identify with.”
I will not be renewing my membership in the Terrace Chamber of Commerce this year, a membership that I have had since I bought my business eight years ago. They do not speak for me!”
Acting chamber president Gordon Stamp-Vincent said while no formal poll of member opinion was done, the board met and made a decision to act because “time was of the essence” and because board members are voted in by the chamber it had the authority to make the call.
He emphasized the chamber chose to remain neutral — not for or against — to support varying membership interests.
“Our concern is we want a fair and objective and rigorous process to play itself out in the form of the joint review panel,” he said. “At the end of the day, if it’s not worthy to go forward then it shouldn’t go forward.”
“Going into the ‘if you’re not opposed to it you must be for it … I’m sick and tired of American-style politics it makes me gag,” said Stamp Vincent.
Stamp-Vincent added that these are his personal views. “Two years olds say no because they want control … as we get older, we usually go for more reasoned debate.”