By Lauren Watson
Published: Nov. 24, 2012
“How many people do we have?” the leader called out. It was a cool and damp Wednesday evening. The crowd, mostly families, huddled close to fend off the weather. They had one message: No pipleline please.
Against this flow, stood a turbulent body and sign. He was one against what was easily 150 Squamish locals and he held the words in his hands that no one really liked. “I love Embrigde”.
What he meant was that he was standing up for the Alberta-based crude oil provider that was threatening to carve a pipeline across the west and send supertankers through the protected inland corridor of the Great Bear Rainforest. The spelling was beside the matter.
His presence and the reaction of the crowd illuminated an important implication of this country’s current climate: core values are being challenged through Canada’s relationship with oil.
The Liu Institute of Global Issues elaborated on this in the recent presentation: How did the pipeline become a battle field for the soul of our nation?
George Hoberg of the Faculty of Forestry at UBC and Will Horter of the Dogwood Initiative spoke on pertinent issues relating to this question.
It does not take an expert to know that there is an aura of negative press that has surrounded the oil industry over the last decade.
However the demonization of environmental groups by the Canadian Minister of the Environment has also played a key part of the changing dialogue. Claims that they have “radical ideological agendas” and are “funding foreign special interests” are part of a strategic political agenda, as Hoberg describes, that is meant to foster negative associations.
The move essentially backfired in BC, creating a stronger contingent of people opposed to the push for Bill C-38
Hoberg suggests that the production of oil from the tar sands conflicts with the core values in Canada.
The Harper vision for the future, based on commodity development and exports, is primarily inline with the interests of Alberta and statistically differs from those other provinces.
Of the financial gains from the pipeline, only 15% would be distributed within British Columbia, while 68% would land in Alberta.
Meanwhile, the risk associated would fall wholly on BC soil. The legal and political grounds for the battle are strengthened even more by the unresolved land claims of the First Nations Peoples.
There are 4 possible outcomes of the pipeline as outlined by Hoberg. First, the Joint Review Panel (JRP) approves the project and the litigation and resistance continue.
Second, the JRP does not approve the pipeline, but the Prime Minister overrides it and must adhere long list of stipulations created by the JRP.
The next possibility is that Enbridge withdraws their proposal, but this has become highly unlikely. Lastly the JRP approves the proposal and Enbridge puts it in their back pocket due to various uncertainties.
Even if the Enbridge proposal is not approved, oil is still the crutch of the nation. The pressure to extract and export oil will not evaporate until significant changes are made the structure of Canadian government, Canadian economy and Canadian lifestyles.
Even if the Enbridge proposal is not approved, Hoberg warns of the Kinder- Morgan company being more cunning and strategic than their predessesors.
“ Is anyone Counting?” One protester called out, as the photographer snapped another shot and the wind blew a bit stronger.
The Northern Gateway Pipeline has not evaded the radar of British Columbians. Through many forms of non- traditional participation, concerned citizen’s are now given the chance to make their voice count, challenge short sighted goals, and define the publics roll in moving he country towards a sustainable future.