The Terrace Economic Development Authority (TEDA) won’t be looking to the Northern Gateway Pipeline for economic opportunities.
The authority had been working with the Northern Gateway proponent to determine what economic gains there might be for the city connected to the $5.5 billion plan to carry oil from Alberta via a pipeline to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
But now that city council voted Feb. 13 to reverse a 2011 decision to remain neutral, and to oppose the project instead, any further work with Enbridge has been stopped, says TEDA chair Rob Dykman.
“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.”
Before council switched its stance, Dykman wrote a letter to the city urging council to remain neutral.
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 economic development in the region and that TEDA will focus on those opportunities.
TEDA was virtually the only body to ask council to remain neutral toward Enbridge.
For instance, The Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce, which represents business but is not affiliated with the city, has taken no position on the project.
Terrace’s mayor Dave Pernarowski added that saying no to Enbridge’s pipeline doesn’t reflect the city’s stance to other business.
“We’re just talking about one project,” he said. “We’re agressively going after industrial development that would be suitable to our region.”
City council’s anti-Enbridge stance is part of a growing trend, says a B.C. environmental law expert.
“It’s very interesting to see your council there acting in that way,” said University of Victoria law professor Calvin Sandborn. “Ultimately pipeline jurisdiction is federal and provincial.”
But municipal councils across North America are increasingly trying to regulate industrial projects even though they are outside their jurisdiction, he explained.
“I think the reason why people do go to local governments is because they’re frustrated about senior governments… they don’t believe [in their environmental assessment] neutrality,” he said, adding to him it has become clear that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are keen to push the pipeline project through regardless of the federal review conclusions.
“So what people do is they turn to their local government because they have to respond,” he said.
Sandborn’s point was echoed by councillor Stacey Tyers during last night’s Enbridge pipeline deliberations.
“It’s time we stood by our community,” said Tyers, “not the federal govenrment, not the provincial government.”
Tyers added she does not trust in the formal Northern Gateway review, and she’s heard this opinion from others, too.
“It went from being an environmental review to an economic review,” she said.