Enbridge Won’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer, Despite 96% Opposition

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Despite over 9,500 public submissions to the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline – with a resounding96% opposed – John Carruthers, the company president in charge of the project, remains confident it will proceed.

Carruthers told reporters outside the final round of hearings in Terrace, BC this week, “I think the chances of it going ahead are very probable.”

Either this is desperate, last-ditch posturing – in which case Mr. Carruthers is misleading his shareholders – or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, he believes what he says.

Consider the implications for a moment, given the wholesale rejection of the project from every quarter.

Enbridge has been told, “NO”, six ways from Sunday over the past five years.

An unprecedented, unified “No” from First Nations all along the pipeline and tanker routes – backed by others all around the province and beyond. Over 160 altogether. Their resolve has not wavered – even when Enbridge tried to engineer the splintering of this phalanx through atrumped up, discredited deal with a rogue Gitxsan treaty negotiator, the ham-fisted maneuver backfired badly. The “unbroken wall” of opposition promised by chiefs like Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz Fisrt Nation has held all this time.

Northern municipalities – Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers – have passed resolutions telling Enbridge, “No.”

Ecologists, biologists, statisticians, fishermen, marine safety and oil spill recovery experts, even respected economists have lined up to tell Enbridge, “No.”

The province’s Official Opposition and Government have both, essentially, told Enbridge, “No.”

In fact, the only person who has said “Yes” to Mr. Carruthers is Stephen Harper – and even his support is wavering these days. His top BC minister, James Moore, responded to the Clark Government’s closing statement against the pipeline at the JRP hearings, noting, “there are many pathways for Canadian resources to get out of the country, and we’ll see if Enbridge looks at other opportunities.” According to CBC, “He said his government supports B.C.’s five conditions for heavy oil pipelines…Moore says his government supports getting natural resources out of Canada, whether through Northern Gateway, or other projects, but any company must be accountable to the people living where it wants to build.”

Harper is changing his tune because even he can see what everyone else but Carruthers can: this project is dead in the water.

Mr. Carruthers’ confidence is based on his own subjective certainty that Northern Gateway is “a tremendously needed project for Canadians to get full value for their resources which are critically needed and that need is even more urgent than it’s been.”

This baseless fear-mongering was echoed by Enbridge lawyer Richard Neufeld, who also took the stand Monday to extoll his company’s project. If Enbridge were denied, “Canada would be facing, we submit, an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportions,” Neufeld told the Joint Review Panel.

This laughable, self-serving rhetoric flies in the face of the independent economic analysis of former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan and many others who have warned of the economic perils to Canadians from exporting unrefined bitumen to foreign markets. Even the venerable Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) acknowledges that building a petro-economy leads to net economic losses as manufacturing and other sectors are squeezed by artificially inflated currencies.

It is by no means a given that opening up BC’s coast to raw fossil fuel exports will do anything but imperil our “Super, Natural” brand and the $13.4 Billion tourism economy upon which it depends.

Mr. Carruthers is confusing what’s in the economic interest of Canadians with that of himself and the foreign-owned oil producers who would use his infrastructure to export Canadian jobs and resource wealth to foreign markets. They are not remotely one and the same. When we hear “the economy”, we must always ask, “whose economy?”

And what of the inordinate human, environmental and, yes, economic costs of the climate catastrophe this project would help facilitate? Even the US Government is coming to terms with the socioeconomic costs of carbon. Applying their own calculations to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline yields a prediction of up to half a trillion dollars in carbon-driven social costs.

There is no glut of supply in North America’s pipelines, no “bitumen bubble” driving down Tar Sands prices. Canada is a net importer of oil, for Pete’s sake. American buyers pay less for Canadian dilbit and syncrude because they are inferior products to light crude, thus meriting a discounted price.

That will always be the case, whether the customer is China or America. International crude prices may be higher for now, but dilbit will always be discounted – and the minimal additional profits from international markets are sure to wind up in the largely foreign pockets of shareholders, not trickling down the Canadian public, as we are to believe.

Contrary to Carruthers and Neufeld’s Chicken Little prognostications, the sky will not fall on Canada’s economy should Enbridge face rejection. And what does their opinion count for on this score anyway? They are the project proponent – not independent economists.

That’s what makes this all so insulting – the righteous indignation, the holier-than-thou pontificating, the outrageous scare tactics, the thumbing of noses by these gentlemen from Calgary at BC’s First Nations and citizens.

If Mr. Carruthers is delusional, as I suspect, then that’s his problem I suppose (and that of his shareholders).

If, on the other hand, he’s right and his much-maligned project does go ahead, then what does that say about this country in which we live? When 96% of the engaged citizenry and assorted experts who take the time to prepare and submit their thoughts to a two-year National Energy Board hearing speak against the project; when First Nations who hold unceded, constitutionally protected title and rights to these lands and waters remain unequivocally opposed…and it goes ahead, what does that say about Canada?

If that happens, we can all just quit referring to this country as a democracy. Full stop.

But I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen at this stage. I think Mr. Carruthers is full of it.

What has me more concerned these days is the following scenario: Enbridge gets rejected. Instead, we see three or four “gas pipelines” built to BC’s coast – sailing past regulatory hurdles while the public and media are distracted by Enbridge. The “gas pipelines” are ostensibly to feedboondoggle LNG projects in Kitmat and Prince Rupert – which never materialize because the economic fundamentals simply aren’t there (more on that next column). Said “gas pipelines” get converted to dilbit pipelines, LNG terminals swapped for dilbit terminals. And, presto! It won’t be called Enbridge, but – except for Mr. Carruthers – who cares? Same impact on our economy and environment.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

7 thoughts on “Enbridge Won’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer, Despite 96% Opposition

  1. Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:51 posted by Damien Gillis

    Steve, you don’t need to agree or disagree. My statement is a fact: 96% of the 9500 or so official submissions to the National Energy Board hearings were opposed.

    Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:49 posted by Damien Gillis

    No, you did not read that correctly, Len. Roughly 9200 out of 9500 spoke against. Our democracy is only threatened if they are ignored.

    Monday, 24 June 2013 20:56 posted by len h

    Damien, did I read that correct that 160 people spoke against this project and you feel that our democracy is threatened?

    Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:56 posted by Walter Fricke

    I’ve heard Mr. Carruthers obfuscate and deflect when asked questions at public forums in Terrace and Kitimat. I do not trust a person who cannot answer a straightforward question. I’m a definite anti-Northern Gateway Pipeline person.

    Thursday, 20 June 2013 07:50 posted by Steve Sullivan

    I do not agree or believe that 96% are opposed.
    I believe Northern Gateway should proceed, with certain conditions. I know many people who think the same way.

    I think it is likely to proceed. I do however valid the contribution made by citizens concerned for the environment. This contribution will make for a better and safer project.

    Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:57 posted by Bob from Kitimat

    When Harper gives the go-ahead it will be political suicide – he needs BC to get re-elected – will he take the chance. We have the wall of orange, First Nations rights and many, many feisty environmentalists that will ensure this insane, earth killing project will NEVER GO AHEAD!!! We are ready for a fight if they dare try to push this project through. This is not in any way for the good of Canada – it is for the good of the shareholders and China. How can it be for Canada’s best interest when they want to hire foreign workers (in Canada), ship unrefined bitumen to China, have it refined and then let China decide if they will share ‘their’ oil with Canada at a higher price. I’m sure Harper is one of the shareholders or has enough backdoor deals that if it went through he’d be making a fortune! NOT A CHANCE IN HELL THIS PROJECT WILL GO THROUGH!!

    Wednesday, 19 June 2013 07:23 posted by Cynthia

    There are some places where gas and oil companies should be forbidden. The sacred headwaters is one of them. There is no amount of jobs or money that could be worth this terrible act. Enbridge must be stopped.

    Wednesday, 19 June 2013 02:19 posted by the salamander

    The tar sands, the fracking, the farmed salmon, the raw log exports, coal, beef, grain, potash, LNG and its invasive infrastructure will grind on Damien ..

    The combined forces & finances behind these publicly traded enterprises is far far bigger than The Harper Brand. IE .. they can capture, own and dictate to our government.. ergo .. they are our government ..

    And Harper – Novak (Stevie/Ray) and Kent, Baird, DeLorey, Jenni Byrne, Oliver, Van Loan, Ton Flanagan, James Moore, Poilievre et al are just hired but deeply flawed messengers.. paid front men.. mouthpieces with control of Canada’s budget, legislation, lawyers, media and governmental propaganda .. and oberseers of our scientific, biological, departments – bureaus and budgets ..

    And you have the fool on the BC hill, ‘Her Hotness’ Christy Clark to assist, collaborate with & enable these fork tongued carpet baggers and bad whisky salesmen/women..

    This country is a mess .. at extreme risk .. we have elected liars & given them majority governments. And with that opportunity, they promptly forget they are public servants, there to respect, protect and advance our needs, dreams and wishes.. our environment & our country.

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 23:53 posted by Sarah-c.

    Looks as if we’ve taken our ‘democracy’ for granted, forgetting that the Govt. of Canada & every govt. employee is considered a ‘public servant’ & needs to be managed accordingly if not reminded EVERY STEP OF THE WAY of their responsiblities in this regard. Govt. not only NEEDS, but clearly BEGS, our guidance… & we public have been shirking OUR duties, as Canada’s (constitutionally acknowledged/outlined) Stewards, i.e. ‘keepers of the land’, which our native people have successfully & sustainably undertaken for centuries before Europeans arrived & started logging & mining to the ponit of crisis we’ve reached today – instead of ‘doing as the Romans’ & learning from First Nations how to live + operate sustainably. As NASA have warned, we need – more than ever – to GET SUSTAINABLE (eg. with clean energy, protecting forests/nature, reducing pollution/waste) if we’re to have a thriving (& renewable) future – i.e. legacies of any value…

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 17:47 posted by Damien Gillis

    Salamander, my question about Canada and the public benefit is a rhetorical one – clearly it is about power and politics; though that doesn’t mean it should be…On that note, I do believe Enbridge has become politically untenable for Harper, which is why he will turn his back on it, which will be the final straw for Mr. Carruthers and co.

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 15:45 posted by Kevin Logan

    Harper will be the one who finally drives the stake into the heart of the Zombie proposal Enbridge has become internationally famous for.

    It will be done as anecdotal evidence to the “opposing” narrative that defines Harper as a puppet of big oil and it will restore his political capital in BC and beyond.

    Meanwhile, the success of Enbridge has been unparalleled even though the proposed project will never come to fruition.

    Remember 100 million dollars was raised for this agenda. This funded the single largest distraction in Canadian History.
    While all the ink and attention was devoted to Enbridge the entire country has been rewired and handed over to the EPIC oil and gas agenda. Successfully ensuring numerous subsequent projects in both oil and gas while at the same time legislating away any obstacles whatsoever, leaving Canada barely recognizable to anyone paying attention.

    During the entirety of this charade Enbridge has come to the for as the pre-eminent pipeline company, stock for ever escalating, regardless of the failed proposal.

    The distraction of this one proposal has allowed rail and pipeline sprawl to all coasts to proceed unhindered.

    All Good politics right Horter?

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 15:23 posted by the salamander

    Thanks Damien .. and thanks Scotty too !

    I think it important to carefully consider if ‘promoting’ or ‘likelihood’ or ‘joint review panel’ are truly useful terms re this particular & spectacularly consequential pipeline thrust.

    And let’s not forget Stephen Harper’s ruthlessness and arcane pipeline pronouncement .. ‘things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically’ .. after legislating that his government can overrule environmental review.

    The only thing that will stop Stephen Harper in this case is if the pipeline threatens his political power. If he can extinguish First Nation treaties, abrogate The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, tie things up in the courts, delay, suppress, obstruct, control elections etc without personal & party penalty.. he will. End of story

    James Moore is a sellout partisan political animal. No different from Harper or any of the other losers, Kent, Kenney, Oliver, Baird, Clement, Flaherty et al

    its about power.. and never has been about Canada.. Its about a personal political ego dreamstate.. not about reality, ethics, Canadians, voters. Its not about our environment, our dreams, our wishes or needs, or our children. Its all about them.

    Tuesday, 18 June 2013 13:10 posted by Scotty on Denman

    I think John Carruthers and Enbridge have done a remarkable job of promoting Northern Gateway considering the huge, huge barriers to its realization. But that is, after all, the job Mr Carruthers is paid to do. I call it remarkable because his prognostications still resonate with many and still affect politics in places outside as well as inside Canada. Enbridge has been very astute in identifying the environmental risks of the pipeline as the one which the public identifies with most. It’s a challenging category but, as all good rhetoricians know, probably the one which Enbridge feels is easiest to persuade and therefore the one to accentuate while glossing over the others. How could the environment possibly be an easier nut to crack? The answer, I think, is that the remaining issues are so much more difficult, albeit less recognized by the public.

    Of course the Constitutional aspect is one which any pipeline promoter would avoid: it is virtually insurmountable. The economic value of Northern Gateway should be questioned—and will be, whether it goes ahead or not (i.e., in the negative or positive). Yet the least mentioned aspect is the strategic. This question is big.

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