Harper’s Pipeline Nightmare


What kind of year in politics is 2011 going to be? Very
likely another year (or at least ten months) of gridlock at the federal
level, with no sign of any so-called game changer on the horizon.

A spring election is looking less likely as
the Conservatives try to make a deal with the NDP — swapping its
support for the budget for increased support for seniors and hopefully a
halt to scheduled corporate tax cuts. Harper seems resigned to
remaining a minority government and doesn’t want an election. Canadians
are no more willing to give him a majority today than they were last
year or in the last election. As soon as a Harper majority appears
possible, a whole whack of voters change their minds and the
Conservatives go back to their maximum maintainable level of 36-38 per

So if there is so little meaningful action
on the parliamentary political front, we should look to
extra-parliamentary politics for action. And here the movement seems to
defy the polls. Because while environmental issues are still taking a
back seat to economic ones, it is on the environmental front that stuff
is actually happening. While the media seem to focus on the lack of
action on climate change, other enviro issues are witnessing intense
activity and campaigning by dozens of groups.

They have demonstrated that Stephen Harper,
a man who doesn’t like to blink, can be defeated when opponents fight
smart and are in for the long haul. The rejection of the B.C. Prosperity
copper-gold mine proposal and the saving of Fish Lake was a good
example. Approving the mine in the face of very effective publicity on
the part of opponents proved just too much for even Stephen Harper to
pull off. Defying many of the pundits’ predictions, the Conservatives
backed off and actually listened to their own environmental review

Coming down the pipe

While the fight isn’t over yet, Harper
faces another major defeat and it will happen this year. He will
confront another Fish Lake-like decision, except this time it is a much
bigger issue: the so-called Northern Gateway project, Enbridge
Corporation’s plan to construct a 1,200 kilometre pipeline (across 1,000
streams and rivers) that would carry unrefined bitumen from the tar
sands to Kitimat on the West Coast. That would result in some 200
supertankers a year loading the stuff up and taking it to markets in the
U.S. and Asia through the pristine and treacherous waters off the B.C.

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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.