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Enbridge pipeline puts 56000 jobs at risk: First Nations leader

An oil spill on B.C.’s north coast could cost the province 56,000 jobs, Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt said Tuesday.

It’s further incentive, he argued, to quash a proposal by Calgary-based Enbridge to put hundreds of supertankers in the region each year.

An estimated 26,000 jobs in B.C.’s fishing industry are “directly dependant on a healthy marine environment,” Sterritt said. Those include actual fishermen and positions in processing plants.

The numbers, he said, were confirmed by the B.C. Seafood Alliance, a non-profit group that represents the provincial seafood industry. Sterritt estimated 20 percent – or 5,200 of those jobs – belong to First Nations.

“That’s probably the biggest employer of First Nations on the coast of B.C.,” he said.

Another 30,000 positions are dependant on the province’s burgeoning coastal eco-tourism sector, he said.

“Those are jobs that exist today – and the industry is growing exponentially,” Sterritt said.

Green groups and First Nations fought a decades-long battle to protect the Great Bear Rainforest from over-logging. As part of final land-use negotiations, the province and the feds each contributed $30 million for sustainable economic development.

Another $60 million – slated for conservation initiatives – came from private philanthropic groups, mostly based in the U.S.

“We have a sustainable plan that includes all people that live on the coast,” Sterritt said. “That plan doesn’t include exporting crude oil to other parts of the planet.”

Enbridge, one of Canada’s largest pipeline operators, proposes to send 220 supertankers each year through the Great Bear Rainforest region.

A pipeline stretching 1,172 km from Alberta's oil sands to coastal Kitimat would carry crude oil bound for Asian markets.

The project will create “1,150 long-term jobs in maintenance and operations of the pipelines and marine terminal,” Enbridge insists. The breakdown for communities such as Kitimat isn’t huge.

About 165 permanent jobs will be created at the town’s marine terminal, the company says.

The Tyee recently visited Hartley Bay, a tiny First Nations community along the proposed supertanker route. Click here to read about a rapidly-growing environmental stand-off.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee

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