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MP stumps against northern gateway

Prime minister to decide on future of project
Chris Bolster

Instead of PowerPoint slides and bulleted notes, people attending Nathan Cullen’s presentation on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline heard stories.

More than 150 people attended Cullen’s talk at the Town Centre Hotel Wednesday, March 19. Powell River was the first stop on the Take Back Our Coast tour which includes talks in cities on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver. Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons introduced Cullen to the crowd.

The New Democratic Party member of parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley assured the crowd that the project would not be completed and the Conservative Party of Canada would pay a heavy price for supporting the construction of the 1,200-kilometre pipeline linking Athabascan bitumen to the Pacific Ocean and Chinese markets.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet will be making the final decision on the project on June 19, said Cullen who hopes to make this a ballot issue in the next federal election.

He explained that with about two-thirds of British Columbians opposed to the project, and BC having an additional six seats in the House of Commons with last year’s federal ridings changes, the Conservatives may find it more difficult than last election to find their majority in the House.

“This is a good lightning rod issue,” he said. “Water, salmon, the environment—it brings a lot of people to the conversation.”

Cullen spoke about how the project has implications for every resource development project to come after this one. “The environmental assessment laws have all been changed. The Fisheries Act was gutted to get rid of habitat protection and the Navigable Waters [Protection] Act was completely wiped out,” he explained. He believes the federal government has bent to the wishes of the oil and gas lobby. “Everything they asked for to facilitate putting pipelines in, the government has given them.”

Cullen talked about Enbridge’s own estimates of the possibility of a major bitumen spill within the next 50 years and how difficult it would be to clean up a spill in the Skeena River compared to the slow-running Kalamazoo River.

The Kalamazoo in Michigan was the site of a spill of diluted bitumen from an Enbridge pipeline in July 2010, the largest inland oil spill in US history.

He also stressed that the first nation communities in Northern BC need the support both financially and politically of people everywhere in Canada to help oppose the project.

When Cullen finished speaking, he invited both Simons and Celine Trojand, organizer of the Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative, to tell their own stories about experiences of working together for a mutual cause.

The crowd spoke in small breakout groups about what actions could be taken to convince Harper not to support the project.