Opinion

Bring Respect and Certainty to Canada's Energy Politics

MP Nathan Cullen on how his bill could transform our 'rip and ship' economy.

By Nathan Cullen 29 Sep 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Nathan Cullen is Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley and the New Democrat Finance Critic. Find him on Twitter @nathancullen.

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NDP MP Nathan Cullen represents the Skeena-Bulkley Valley: 'This law will require government give preference to projects that add value to our natural resources.'

Winston Churchill once said that we should never let a good crisis go to waste. Each one, he'd insist, is a fresh opportunity to achieve what used to seem impossible.

For nine years in Northwest B.C. we've been facing a looming crisis with the Northern Gateway project. Enbridge still plans to pipe millions of barrels of toxic bitumen across two mountain ranges, across hundreds of streams and rivers including the headwaters of Canada's greatest salmon rivers, to supertankers which will have to navigate some of the most dangerous waters on earth.

Out of this struggle, we've seen a remarkable joining together of people from all walks of life: native and non-native, young and old, conservative and progressive. When threatened, Northerners hold fast to our most essential core values, which includes this being a place where our children can enjoy wild spaces and wild salmon. We have a profound sense of community, and we insist that we have a choice in what happens to our home. These shared convictions can transform us into a powerful defender of this land and our waters. While our economy depends on natural resources, we have a demonstrable capacity to make difficult choices about development in order to preserve those community and family values.

The people of the Northwest have refused to be victimized by this project. Instead, we are seizing this moment to drive positive change. In that spirit, this fall, I will be bringing legislation to Parliament to achieve three key goals -- for our region and beyond. This issue, while fundamentally important to the Skeena, is also fundamental to the current erosion of civic society being forced on us by Stephen Harper's government.

First, this law will ban oil supertankers from our North Coast's pristine, hazardous waters. Ending decades of uncertainty, we'll give energy companies and governments clear direction on what can and cannot be done in these waters that hold such economic and social significance for First Nations and all British Columbians.

Second, this law will ensure that when Ottawa considers future energy projects, consultations with Canadians will be a meaningful, structured process of ensuring that economic, environmental and community priorities are respected and balanced.

Finally, this law will require government give preference to projects that add value to our natural resources, while discouraging plans to rip and ship raw materials and value-added jobs beyond our borders.

Towards a secure future

I expect my proposals to stir debate, even among some of my long-time supporters. I will reach out to concerned individuals and organizations as my bill works its way through Parliament, because I believe its measures can move regions like ours toward the economic, environmental and community security we need.

Canada can be so much more than just a raw resource basket for the world. By using our intelligence and ingenuity, we can build prosperity while better respecting our natural wealth. And we can start working with, rather than against, the First Nations people who hold legal title to much of this land.

This is the opportunity presented by the Gateway crisis. What we have here is the height of reckless resource development twinned with a federal government unwilling to listen to those affected. This is our moment to stand up and demand better -- to show what better looks like -- for the Northwest and for all Canadians. We can have a strong, diverse economy, and protect the very values that instill pride in our heritage.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Federal Politics

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