By Joyce Murray
On Tuesday, June 17th, Stephen Harper gave his approval for Enbridge to begin construction of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
This pipeline will ship 525,000 barrels of oil sands crude on a daily basis from Alberta to the West Coast port of Kitimat, and on to markets overseas.
The Liberal Party has stood unequivocally opposed to this project since the beginning.
The Northern Gateway pipeline will put the coastal economy and the environment at risk. From fishing to tourism, those individuals whose jobs and livelihoods depend on the Pacific Ocean have not been assured that a catastrophic spill can be prevented.
Lost economic activity resulting from an oil spill has been estimated at $300 million in British Columbia.
The Conservatives have chosen to ignore these risks, and instead push through this economically and environmentally dangerous pipeline.
A Joint Review Panel recommended approval of the project back in December 2013.
This recommendation was made despite serious concerns surrounding the potential impact of the project on the land surrounding the pipeline and along the coastline of B.C.
Now the Conservatives have simply rubber stamped this flawed decision.
The Northern Gateway Project has failed to win the support of surrounding populations, including the town of Kitimat. Indigenous communities have also rejected the project, given the potential impact that an oil spill could have on their traditional territories.
Instead of listening to legitimate concerns expressed about the risks posed by this project, the Conservatives have threatened and bullied anyone who has spoken out against the pipeline; they subsequently weakened Canada’s environmental laws to clear the way for its approval.
This is not leadership – and it is not a positive example to set for Canada or the rest of the world.
The Liberal Party supports the sustainable development of our natural resources and the diversification of the markets we supply with energy products.
Canada needs infrastructure – including pipelines – to move our energy resources to both domestic and global markets. However, these projects must earn the trust of communities and cannot ignore aboriginal rights. They must not place our lands, waterways and ecosystems at risk.
The Northern Gateway Project has not met this test. Aboriginal peoples have not been fully consulted.
Canadians have not been convinced our environment can be protected. Individuals whose livelihoods depend on the Pacific Ocean do not believe that a catastrophic spill can be prevented.
And yet, the Conservatives have pushed ahead with this project – without adequately addressing the serious risks that this pipeline will present.
This is why Liberals are opposed to the Northern Gateway Project, and this is why we strongly denounce the federal government’s decision to approve this pipeline.
Liberals will continue to stand in solidarity with First Nations and local communities, prioritizing the protection of our environment and coastal economy.
Joyce Murray is the Liberal Party of Canada Member of Parliament for the riding of Vancouver-Quadra. She was also the environment minister in the provincial B.C. Liberal government from 2001 to 2005.