I, for one, am so glad to see that big, strong, broad alliances are spreading their wings and growing to unify all our different communities in opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
As the Joint Review Panel makes its rounds through northern BC and Alberta without much fanfare, a delegation from British Columbia was in Ottawa this week and has just sent a loud clear “No Pipeline” message ringing from coast to coast, and beyond.
Bringing together a whole range of complex issues and representations, the group went to Ottawa to have all our voices heard. Their message was comprehensive, wide-ranging, and very clear. Too bad our federal ministers of environment (Peter Kent) and natural resources (Joe Oliver) chose not to hear, by not meeting with the delegation.
When I looked around at the news feeds today, I’d say Oliver and Kent don’t know a good place to start bailing out of a mess when it comes straight to their front door. The media response has been terrific and the message has been delivered across the nation. NO PIPELINE!
Stories covering the delegations events and press conferences have appeared everywhere – in the Calgary Herald, Fort McMurraytoday, the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post – pretty much in every newspaper across the country, and even the Wall Street Journal Market Beat column.
The Ottawa delegation included:
Chief Jackie Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation, Yinka Dene Alliance,
Gerald Amos, former elected chief councillor, Kitamaat Village, Haisla Nation,
Arnie Nagy, United Fisherman’s and Allied Workers’ Union
Michael Uehara, President, King Pacific Lodge and
Josh Paterson, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law.
They were also joined by David Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, a union representing 150,000 Canadian workers, including most of the workers employed in the tar sands. The union is also opposed.
The delegation spoke to a full house at the University of Ottawa Monday day night at an event hosted by Environmental Defence. A press conference was held Tuesday and the group met with parliamentary opposition leaders and MPs.
The message is clear. How many ways can you say NO?
Everyone in the delegation said the Enbridge project will not proceed.
“We will defend our Rights, no matter what bully tactics the federal government throws at us,” said Saik’uz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas, of the Yinka Dene Alliance. “Our decision has been made: Enbridge will never be allowed in our lands.”
Canada does not need the Gateway pipeline said David Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union. He said tar sand workers were opposed to shipping unprocessed bitumen out of the country, and the union workers do not want to see unbridled tar sands expansion.
“Gateway is contrary to our need for jobs, the economy, environmental protection and First Nations rights; these four pillars have to be the priority.
What is really disconcerting here is that we do not have a national energy strategy. We have a prime minister who, one day, is in the United States saying, ‘We are your gas tank.’ And when that doesn’t work he’s in Japan saying, ‘We are your gas tank’. One has to wonder when he’ll go somewhere else and say, ‘We are your gas tank.'”
On the west coast, fishing and tourism provide millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs. No one want to see those disappear. Tankers off the B.C. coast could harm tourism in addition to presenting the risk of an oil spill, said Michael Uehara, a business leader in the B.C. tourism industry.
“The very existence of tankers on the coast makes it incompatible with tourism operations,” he said.
Arnie Nagy spoke he said “with pride” of how his community of Prince Rupert had voted NO to the Enbridge proposal as had the communities of Haida Gwaii.
In response to talk about the bullying and intimidation of a government seen to be in lock step with the oil industry. Rick Smith of Environmental Defense said at the press conference:
“This is Canada. You are not going to get what you want by running roughshod over people’s rights, by backing people into a corner, by forcing them to go to court, by ignoring existing regulations, and by clearly bullying people through the media. It’s not going to work. It’s going to backfire on you. And the fact that we have this delegation from BC here today. You couldn’t ask for a broader alliance against this pipeline: municipalities, unions, First Nations.
This isn’t your usual small, you know, granola-munchie environmental group here. This is as broad a cross section of Canadians, including workers from the oil industry, that you could ask for. This has catalyzed in the last few weeks. . . . This pipeline will not be built.”
David Coles of the tar sand workers union concurred, “This pipeline is just not going to get built.”
Myself, having been out there on the fringes of the “granola-munchie’ small group environmental universe for many years I’m really quite surprised at how polished we “radical foreign-funded” dissenters have become. Kind of like coming in from the cold. Especially when the message this alliance is presenting is so clear and well-thought out, and bringing together a lot of people who could have found themselves wrangling over opposite ends of the stick. After all the fracking nonsense the federal government has been spouting lately, it’s a very refreshing and revitalizing change.
The 22-minutes press conference can be seen in video here on CBC. It’s really worth a viewing.