Over 60 per cent of British Columbians oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
But under Canada’s current regulatory regime, that opposition means very little.
The National Energy Board (NEB) doesn’t need to consider that opposition when it makes decisions. And federal Cabinet also has no accountability to the people most affected by decisions on pipelines.
I’m proud to say that New Democrats are taking action.
My colleague, Nathan Cullen (MP Skeena —Bulkley Valley) tabled An Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest in Parliament. It will be debated this autumn and hopefully be voted on before Christmas.
The intent of the bill is to bring local communities, including First Nations, back into discussions about resource extraction, particularly of oil and gas.
It will compel the NEB to adequately consult Fist Nations, provincial and municipal governments and local communities. And it must reflect the concerns heard in any final decision.
The bill will also finally ban supertankers from transporting oil across the North Coast, putting into legislation a voluntary ban that has existed for decades.
It only makes sense — after the tragedy of the Queen of the North sinking off Hartley Bay, we know how quickly ships can go down in these waters.
And how easily it is for a ship, with all kinds of modern electronic navigating gear, to veer off course only a little and cause a catastrophe.
Finally, the bill also forces the NEB to start considering the impact of any proposal on value-added jobs in Canada. Rather than “rip-and-ship” development that is all about moving the rawest material offshore to be processed, this New Democrat bill will ask the NEB to consider if a pipeline will add value as part of its public interest criteria.
That means assessing whether or not a pipeline will impact jobs in the upgrading and refining sector in Canada; and viewing negatively any pipeline that only ships raw product away for export.
Ultimately, the bill seeks to undo some of the damage caused by the Conservatives’ determination to eviscerate environmental legislation in this country, leaving communities and businesses wondering what protections still exist for our wilderness and our homes.
Over 45,000 fisheries and tourism jobs would be affected by a spill either along the Enbridge pipeline route or by a spill on the North Coast. And it is impossible to determine what damage a leak or a tanker accident would cause to the environment and the many species on the Coast.
British Columbians have spoken — they don’t want to risk everything so one company can make bigger profits.
This bill will help bring some balance back to resource extraction regulation.