Premier Clark's Lousy Conditions

Why her five requirements for accepting Enbridge's Northern Gateway project don't add up.

By Rafe Mair 6 Aug 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair writes a column for The Tyee every second Monday. Read his previous columns here. He is also a founding contributor to The Common Sense Canadian.

It was bad enough when Premier Christy Clark was just a relatively harmless photo-op. She's become a dangerous photo-op.

Clark's spat with Premier Redford of Alberta is irresponsible in the extreme. I'll expand upon that in a moment but first let's look at Premier Clark's conditions precedent, as set out by Environment Minister Terry Lake, for succumbing (the right word, I think) to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

"Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed…"

This is a no brainer. The approval will be given, providing certain environmental requirements which all experience tells us will not be monitored by the feds. We won't be able to see this until construction is under way. If the standards are substantial and not mere puffery, what does Premier Clark expect the feds to do? Say naughty, naughty? One need only look at the requirements placed on the power project on the Ashlu River and the calamitous consequences to returning salmon (predicted by many including me) to see the attitude of governments when environmental standards set are ignored.

In short it would be madness to stake our position on the findings of the joint committee. We know all we need to know now to make a full and final decision not to permit the pipeline to proceed

"World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments..."

Wow! This is a toughy. In fact this readily will be given since systems for moving oil by tanker are articles of hyped fluff and count for nothing after the spill has happened. And spills will happen.

"World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines..."

Here we have it folks. We know that there will be spills and we want a guarantee that Enbridge, cross their heart and hope to die, will do their very best to clean up the messes. "Mitigation" is a horrible weasel word permitting corporations to do what they wish as long as they plant a few trees here or build a grassy knoll there.

Even Enbridge admits that no matter what safeguards they will put in place, spills will happen. Considering their appalling record, Enbridge tells us something we already know -- in spades what with two major spills in the last two months.

"Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project…"

This does nothing except state that which is already the law and is clearly an effort by Clark to tell First Nations that the BC Liberal government loves them very much.

"British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers..."

I cannot believe that any B.C. premier would make such a statement, except to attract attention away from the real issues by demonizing another premier.

Doesn't Premier Clark understand our constitution? Does she not understand the right of free passage of goods through provinces?

I would love to be able to knee the haughty Alberta in the groin -- great fun but irresponsible as hell. Premier Redford is right to say that resources belong to the province and that she has a right to ship them through B.C. without the imposition of extortion. (If you demand something you have no entitlement to, "extortion" is the word. Perhaps, on reflection, "blackmail" is even more apt).

Stand back from this and ask what British Columbians would say if Premier Redford were to declare that henceforth no B.C. resources could pass through Alberta unless B.C. shared the stumpage or royalties they collected.

Worst of all, as I have stated over and over, Premier Clark has made the issue of a pipeline through our wilderness a matter of money. The fact remains that, money or no money, we will have spills on land and on sea which will wreak permanent havoc beyond the ability of any amount of money to make things right.

Common sense tells us that these spills will be in unreachable wilderness or on our coasts with consequences that will make the Exxon Valdez pale into insignificance.

Common sense also tells us that no amount of money and promises to clean up will come close to compensating us for our losses, one of the reasons being the impossibility of assessing those losses. What price tag do we put on the ruination of wildlife habitat? The destruction of our rivers and streams? The loss of our coastal natural resources and tourist grabbing scenery and ambience? How do we assess the ongoing degradation of what is the soul of our province?

Surely the answer to the certainty of ongoing trashing of our heritage, on land as well as sea, is not compensation but that the pipelines and tanker traffic simply should not be allowed to happen.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Politics

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